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—is on view at the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art from Tuesday, Aug. 23, through Sunday, April 1, 2023.
Yoder, a Falls Church, Virginia-based artist, 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 of 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 an ideal investigation across disciplines. It’s relatable.”
Malinick added that Department of English students used the objects to discuss “Sneakerhead” culture, resulting in an episode of The Jule Museum Podcast. The museum staff are exploring ways to tour the exhibition as a part of its 20th Anniversary celebration in 2023.
Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University
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About Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University
Located on Auburn’s campus, the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art 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.