Robyn Sanford with Robott Studios
From Coachella Valley, California
*HUGS* is a large soft sculptural artwork that encourages viewers to touch and hug its form. Consisting of the word hugs surrounded by asterisks, this sculpture depicts the common practice in online communication using bounding asterisks to indicate non-verbal actions. Such stage directing language systems have grown in the vacuum left by a form of communication where physical contact is made impossible. The bright, pop colors of the work are cheerful and unchallenging. They encourage viewers to approach the work with a sense of whimsy that feels reminiscent of playground structures. Hidden beneath the exterior fabric casing is an interior of structural elements and recycled materials chosen by the artist. The playfulness of the external cover is indicative of the surface level interaction that is where most online communication lies. There is more depth within *HUGS* but it would not have you believe it to be there.
The significant scale of the sculpture overtakes the viewer, representing the way in which our digital selves can be overpowering our physical selves. The quickly shifting dominant position of online communication and texts are represented in the measure of the sculpture. While this simultaneously reinforces the impact that physical connection has on our well-being. The size of the sculpture means that one viewer cannot encapsulate a whole letter with their body, much less the whole word. Even though the piece is a selfie-encouraging spectacle, selfies cannot be taken up close. If one wants to include the context which they are capturing it will require others to participate in the process by taking an image for you. The sculpture forces you to include more than yourself. It demands you participate in a bigger space and provide context to give meaning.
At its core *HUGS* is meant to question the new patterns of how we live our lives today. Touch, physical contact, and non-verbal communication are cornerstones of our interpersonal relationships and contribute a large portion of the success of our ability to relate to one another. Yet, we now can connect to more people without the limitations of time or distance. What impacts do the new communication standards have on our mental health? *HUGS* is an ambiguous presentation of these questions both positive and negative aspects of a new paradigm.
About the artist: Robyn Sanford is an artist working in Los Angeles who creates based on a life-long fascination with the complexities of verbal/non-verbal communication. Her work includes site-specific installation, interactive work, contemporary sculpture, painting, and photography. Sanford is compelled by the exploration of the human condition, relationships and the effects that the digital world has on our physical world. Her work often consists of non-traditional art materials and objects that are used in and are a reflection of today’s technology dominated world.
Sanford counts James Turrell, Ed Ruscha, Tara Donovan, and Yayoi Kusama to be amongst her many influences. Having an appetite for education she trained at California State University, Long Beach, The Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, Otis College of Art and Design, and colleges in Florence, Italy, Fullerton, Santa Ana, and Huntington Beach.
Her work can be found in several private and corporate collections throughout Los Angeles and Orange Counties. She has shown in exhibitions throughout Southern California.