2015/11/22

Multiple Realities in Mark Dawn Arcamo and Janelle Tang's 'Parallel Play'

It is interesting to note that despite the domestic commonalities that artists Mark Dawn Arcamo and Janelle Tang have, they still are able to effectively preserve their individual artistic universe.

In Parallel Play, Arcamo and Tang, being more confident about each other's aesthetic decisions, allow themselves to be fully inspired by what is presented to them by their immediate environment. As Arcamo gladly discloses, "We spend most of our time with our 4-year old daughter. The idea came to mind naturally because when my wife and I paint, we do it while our kid is around. Our second two-person exhibition is what I would consider a mimetic manifestation. In the process, we'd incorporate random images to create a kinetic visual playground that provides multi-layered stories."


By definition, 'parallel play' refers to a common type of activity between two children playing beside each other without trying to influence one another. In this type of play, the two children immerse themselves in a similar activity without having to directly or openly interact with each other. It is a natural learning process that toddlers commonly go through as they get older. It is an effective creative process which Arcamo and Tang took full advantage of. It is the process that allows these domestic partners to uphold the dinstinctiveness of their individual artistic identity.

Fundamentally, the artists' second two-person exhibition is a culmination, a showcase of how much they have sharpened their individual visual storytelling abilities. But more significant than that, Parellel Play is a rendezvous where two people with common physical environment yet two different realities meet.

As viewers, we are perhaps invited to find the connection between our own realities with the realities that Arcamo and Tang present in their works. Or perhaps, their exhibition is an opportunity for us to try to be aware of other realities existing within the deepest region of our forebrain.

For instance, in Arcamo's "Sweet Spot" (30 in x 40 in), we are presented a common gustation--sweetness--a reality so present and so common that we may not see anything significant or interesting about it anymore. So the artist presents his version of this reality--wherein various hues of purples and blues are used in line with pointy geometrical shapes. Visually, the work seems to challenge us to be more conscious of a faculty which already seems so familiar.

Tang, on the other hand, seems to be so in touch with her inner child. Gazing at her works is like looking into a periscope--we, as the observers, submerged in the depths of our physical and perceived realites, are given the opportunity to see things that are otherwise out of sight. This I think, is what viewers would feel upon looking at  one of Tang's works, "Caught in the Middle" (36 in x 48 in)--it takes us into the periscopic view of a child at play. In this work, complimentary colors and well-known silhouettes and patterns are placed and arranged in such a way that may cause us an Alice in Wonderland syndrome.

We can obviously state now that their parenting responsibilities were never a hurdle to their artistic practice--instead, it was an inspiration. By incorporating the natural creative development that their child undergoes into their artistic work, art-making and parenting become highly compatible.

As Tang puts it, "Being a parent made me a better artist. It is like having two real worlds. It is like escaping from one reality in order to enter another reality. For my pieces, I get to have two inspirations--the world where we all live and the world that is solely mine. For me, both worlds are real and therefore, they have to be cherished and nurtured. Moreover, it is a good excuse to be a child again."

The ability to distinguish multiple realities and the ability to jump from one reality to another are Mark Dawn Arcamo and Janelle Tang's strengths.