Karen Tam


Karen Tam is a Montréal artist whose research focuses on the constructions and imaginations of cultures through installations in which she recreates the spaces of Chinese restaurants, karaoke lounges, opium dens, curio shops and other sites of cultural encounters. She has exhibited her work and participated in residencies across Canada, the United States, Europe, and China. Tam holds a PhD in Cultural Studies from Goldsmiths (University of London) and an MFA in Sculpture from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is represented by Galerie Hugues Charbonneau and her work can be seen at: http://www.karentam.ca


Installation title: Mrs. Spring Fragrance’s Morning Room and Garden

This installation expands the idea of commemorative portraiture in the construction and interpretation of Asianness while linking the difficult yet nuanced issues around gender, colonialism and American Orientalism. ‘Mrs. Spring Fragrance’s Morning Room and Garden’ is based on authors Edith Maude Eaton (who wrote under the pen name Sui Sin Far) and Winnifred Eaton (whose pseudonym was Onoto Watanna). Born to a Chinese mother and an English father, they grew up in Montréal where Edith later worked as a journalist and wrote about Chinatowns and the experiences of Chinese people in North America. Winnifred controversially passed herself off as a Japanese American with a Japanese-sounding name under which she published romance novels and short stories. Bringing together found elements and new fabricated sculptures and textiles, this three-room installation evokes a private domestic space, and will also include a plant-based work in the Galerie’s courtyard. By portraying the differing facets of Edith and Winnifred Eaton within the context of American Orientalism through this work, I hope to show the ways that they resisted and challenged Sinophobia, interrogated the power, appeal, and problematics of American Orientalism as racialized women exploring their identities.

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