A new video exhibition by a New York City artist tests the boundaries of sculpture while tackling themes surrounding consumerism, climate change and capitalism.
Originally from Los Angeles, California, Sam Tufnell came from a very creative family. His grandmother was a published writer, as was his father, and his mother actively encouraged Tufnell to engage in the arts.
“It has always been a childhood hobby that kind of went to adulthood and took on a more serious career ambition. I was always encouraged by my mom to pick up a pencil to go for it,” said Tufnell. “The funny thing is, I’m a tall guy as well, almost 6 foot 6 inches. I fell into sports too — most parents would be proud to see their kid on the varsity basketball team, my parents were horrified,” Tufnell added with a laugh.
Tufnell eventually made his way to The School of Visual Arts in New York City where he really started to dive into sculpting. Though he dabbled in video art during his time there, he worked to perfect his craft in sculpting.
“Because I came from an athletic background, I gravitated towards sculpture. I enjoyed the physicality of it,” said Tufnell. “My earliest works were roses that I made out of metal.”
Upon earning his BFA, Tufnell went on to create more work and became a fixture in the New York City art scene. He has since gone on to display his works in solo and group exhibition shows at the FiveMyles Gallery, the Fitzjohns Gallery and the Natalie Kates Projects, just to name a few.
Tufnell’s latest installation entitled “Chicken Soup Is Not Good For Your Soul” recently opened at the FiveMyles Gallery, located at 558 St Johns Place in Brooklyn. Tufnell used his past as a mold maker and caster to create various compositions of phrases and ordinary subject matter all entirely rendered in chicken soup, which he then photographed as it disintegrated and digitally edited it into a video stream.
“During the pandemic, everyone had to perceive how our lives could be going in different directions. I began to see that the art world needed to take shape in a manner to keep up with the pace of the internet, and of course video and photography lends itself immediately,” said Tufnell. “I was able to really explore the actual movement in a sculpture by creating essentially a documentary of a sculpture falling apart.”
Tufnell initially planned on doing his own take on Andy Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup Cans” but ultimately deciding that he needed to narrow his scope. He experimented with other kinds of food before settling on chicken soup, and he ended up seeing how chicken soup can speak to the issues surrounding climate change and consumerism in the United States.
“Ultimately it was a project that was slowly formulating since I was a kid playing with my food,” said Tufnell. “I had done a bunch of shoots, and the project takes on a different meaning during deconstruction, it’s kind of disgusting. I saw a large cultural meaning in the US, of course in the modern era when dealing with a pandemic and climate change and social inequalities, it’s interesting how things like food take on different mythic meanings. We spend much of the time raised on mom’s cooking, we don’t want to believe that it could be harmful in a lot of cases. I wanted to dive into the soup industry. It was funny to find scientific facts and find out that the only way to feed human beings is genetically modified chickens that can’t even walk.”
The video installation is available 24 hours a day in the window of FiveMyles. In addition to the gallery, “Chicken Soup Is Not Good For Your Soul” was also on display on billboards in Times Square last month as a part of CubeFair.
Tufnell hopes that artists not only are moved and see how the medium of sculpture is challenged in “Chicken Soup Is Not Good For Your Soul,” but he also wants the piece to resonate with the average New Yorker.
“For the art world, I want the art world to react to the piece. This is always a motivation at least for me and all artists, how can I challenge the medium? With things like sculpture and video, the solution was simple and crossbreed the two,” said Tufnell. “For those outside the art world, I wanted to create something accessible, not something that you had to attend some lecture for or feel alienated. A big reason why I chose actual words in the piece was that I didn’t want to have more direct communicating with the audience, the words themselves could do it.”
For more about Tufnell and his art, visit samtufnell.com. “Chicken Soup Is Not Good For Your Soul” will be on display at FiveMyles Gallery until July 4.