WRITTEN BY CHARLOTTE HENDRIX
CONTRIBUTED TO THE OBSERVER
A new exhibition titled “Andy Yoder: Overboard” featuring more than 250 sculptural sneakers — constructed from recycled packing from well-known brands such as Lego, Barbie, Apple and even Auburn University — will be on view at the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art from Tuesday, Aug. 23, through Sunday, April 1, 2023.
Yoder, an artist based in Falls Church, Virginia, draws inspiration from “The Great Shoe Spill of 1990,” when the Hansa Carrier lost more than 80,000 Nike sneakers at sea on its way from South Korea. The environmental disaster brought about new approaches in marine research and examinations of consumer demand’s planetary impact.
“I’m a big believer in the possibility of second chances, which is why this story appeals to me,” Yoder said. “Making art is a form of alchemy, and being creative gives us the power to steer the ship, rather than bobbing around like a sneaker lost at sea.”
The Hansa Carrier accident caught the attention of Oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer in May 1990. Using the sneakers’ unique serial numbers, his research team gathered data from beachcombers who discovered shoes washing ashore through 1992. The information revealed seasonal current changes off the western coast of North America — and even data reflecting that shoes traveled in different directions than the mates.
To tell the story, Yoder selected the Air Jordan 5 design because of its immense popularity in 1990.
“Beyond the visual wow and the pop culture references, the exhibition examines outsourcing, brand loyalty, commercialism and our complex relationships with stuff contrasted with the finite space of our planet,” said Cindi Malinick, executive director of the museum. “Yoder’s work and its back story layer the humanities and sciences, making it ideal investigation across disciplines. It’s relatable.”
Department of English students used the objects to discuss “Sneakerhead” culture, with additional instructional opportunities for all faculty coordinated by Chris Molinski, director of education, engagement and learning at the museum.
Malinick added that touring the exhibition is possible for the museum’s 20th anniversary in 2023. Admission is free for the museum, which reopened to the public with a new array of exhibitions on Aug. 23.
Located on South College Street in Auburn, the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art is part of Auburn University. It is the cultural heart of an Alabama public research institution serving students, faculty and the Southeast. The university art collection includes mid-20th century American modernism, Mexican modernism, contemporary prints and photographs, works on paper depicting the South, ceramics and Southern visionary art. For more, visit www.jcsm.auburn.edu.