អាក្រក់ (Pray for Me)
No Longer Available
Oil, acrylic, soft pastels, pencil and marker on paper
40" x 26"
DescriptionIn the Western Bible, the snake symbolizes evil and temptation. But in Southeast Asian cultures, the snake is known as a wise, healing, and beautiful inter-being who protected the Buddha from the elements. Pray For Me is part of an ongoing series of fabulation where snakes, serpents, and Nagas (នាគ) dwell in liminal spaces and are always becoming. Centering the snake-as-avatar, I am combing cross-cultural and -temporal motifs to map contested sites of representation, duality, belonging, and spirituality. In the past year, I have been absorbing and rediscovering my ancestral culture through my artistic practice. My research spans Southeast Asian Buddhist temple paintings and palm leaf manuscripts, Cambodian silk textiles, kbach (ក្បាច់) ornamentation, karmic mythology from the Jātakas (ជាតក), and interrelated ideas of queerness and Buddhist melancholia. The pose in Pray For Me is a reference to both the reclining Buddha and the reclining nude of canonical Western art. This repeated motif of the snake is part of my longstanding engagement with the concept of liminal spaces, in which I attempt to depict and describe through pictorial symbolism and narrative. Through a synthesis of research and imagination, I strive to recover the joys of artistic engagement after the iconoclasm from the Cambodian genocide. I am the snake. I am a demonized, beautiful conduit for new life. That is, I am an immigrant, the product of a recurring history of human migration and displacement. As a visual artist, I also carry responsibility for engaging my people’s history with care.
About this Artist
សំសុភ័ក្រ Sopheak Sam (b. Thai-Cambodia border) is a U.S. Fulbright scholar whose research-driven practice traces cultural hybridity, queer alterity, and the historicization of the Khmer experience. Their multidisciplinary work meditates on ornamentalism, postwar memory and inheritance, Buddhist melancholia, and film/media archives as source materials across Cambodia and Cambodian diasporas to arrive at sites of pleasure and pain. Sam is currently the recipient of the 2022-2023 Fulbright Student Research Grant to Thailand, and was awarded the U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship in 2017 to pursue studies at the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland. Sam has exhibited work at the Minnesota Museum of American Art (St. Paul, MN), Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, Distillery Gallery, Godine Family Gallery, Midway Gallery, Sandra and David Bakalar Gallery (Boston, MA), Gallery 263 (Cambridge, MA), Dreitzer Gallery (Waltham, MA), and the Grace and Clark Fyfe Gallery (Glasgow, Scotland), among others. They…View Full Artist Bio