All in the Same Boat - Tong'zhou Gong'ji 同舟共济

All in the Same Boat :: Tong'zhou Gong'ji

Each figure in this project is hand sculpted, made from stoneware or porcelain clay, kiln fired in various methods to produce a range of tones. The first 50 gathered in two symbolic clay boats on the Wellfleet Harbor. They were then dispersed through the City of Cambridge CSA (community supported art) Program. Each recipient of a head receives a composite image of portraits of all fifty; this brings attention to the uniqueness of each as well as creates the feeling of being part of a greater whole. 

Rising tides, immigration, refugees, climate change, the need to realize our common issues – the “Same Boat” metaphor evokes many current and resonant meanings. 

The second iteration was commissioned for the new lobby of SJTU-ICCI, the Institute for Culture and Creative Industry at Shanghai Jiaotong University in Shanghai, China. The scope of this project is 120 heads mounted on a 4 meter long wall hung rich yellow boat, currently in the installation phase. I have only a few snapshots so far. For this project, I guided graduate students, staff and faculty of the college in the making of about 1/3 of the sculptures included in this project, creating a sense of ownership and creative community. 

The title in Chinese, Tong’zhou Gong’ji , is a traditional four character phrase (cheng’yu) that translates to all in the same boat, with a hopeful tone of pulling together to get the other side of the river, less ominous than the English usage.  Interactive videos of birds in the sky and rippling water will be projected above and below the boat. 

One selection of pieces was gifted to the school, another group of “travelers” came to America with me to find new homes in future pieces. American clay and Chinese clay are meeting, finding cultural commonalities. In the next version, I hope to continue the inclusion of community members to make some of the figures for a public art piece for my city. As artist, traveler, diplomat, inspirer,  I hope this will continue to expand.

Working with ESOL students at the Cambridge Learning Center in 2019