Mutations: Mixed Media

Artist Statement

I grew up on a small island near Taiwan and spent most of my childhood by the ocean and in nature. As a result, I feel a deep attachment to the natural world. When I was young, my beach was clean and beautiful. Since the rise of technology and social media, especially the increased awareness of tourist destinations brought on by the internet, the island has gained popularity and visitors have brought pollution to it, including large amounts of garbage. The experience of seeing my childhood environment ruined in this way led me to think about how much damage is caused by humans through consuming and discarding products.

Mutations is my effort to call attention to how much garbage humans generate and its effects on the earth. This project is comprised of photographs of sculptures that I created with discarded items and garbage, such as coffee pods, straws, receipts, computer parts, and more. The sculptures often turn these items back into exactly what they are not, such as flowers, mountains, and living creatures. That forms visually attractive patterns and shapes; I then photograph these sculptures in the studio and, finally, composite them digitally into photographic illustrations.

I am creating these “creatures”—I imagine what might happen if all the oceans garbage were to come to life, but the purpose of this representation is to raise questions and challenge assumptions about our relationship with the environment. I want to provoke viewers to be more conscious of and conscientious about their constant consumption, and the vast pollution that it causes. In particular, the photographs reflect our obsession with manufactured products that end up contaminating the most beautiful parts of the planet, especially the ocean that was so pristine when I was growing up.

New York-based Huaiyi Tsai brings a background in both studio photography and communications to his current fine arts work. Tsai’s photographic essay on Tibetan refugee children, On the Other Side of the Himalayas, has been exhibited widely in Asia. He recently earned his Master’s in digital photography from New York’s prestigious School of Visual Arts, where he completed a project that explores the effect of consumerism on the natural world. This work is currently being exhibited at SVA’s Gramercy Gallery in New York City.