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Portrait of an Artist: Tammy Wei brings conceptual art to the forefront in and out of school

Often seen darting in and out of the art room and donning clothes that give off a cool, eccentric vibe, senior Tammy Wei is already a known figure in North’s art world. Wei, who is currently taking AP Studio Art here at North, is one of the school’s most prolific and inventive artists.

This past year, Wei published a book called Sexy Ed, which is currently available for purchase in Barnes & Noble and online. The book is described as “a modern take on health class sex education,” and documents a project that Wei completed this past January and February along with the help of her teachers and classmates (barnesandnoble.com). Her art teacher Mr. Nishan Patel, with whom she now takes private art classes, helped her with the book publishing process. “It began as a performance art piece on film,” Wei said. “We made a cheesy 80’s health class video like the one you would see in middle school. I made these interactive masks that would move and show the processes of the stuff we learn about in health. We took photographs and stills from the film while we were shooting, and that progressed into the book.”

Wei became interested in art as a child, when she would often draw horses and other things she liked for fun and to express her imagination. “[Art] was more of a hobby in the beginning, but I started taking it more seriously getting into high school,” she said.  “I’m now a lot more into conceptual art—not worrying too much about technique and more about meaning and thinking about art as more of an experience than a physical piece.”

Another example of experiential art that Wei created took place this past summer when Wei put up fake dog flyers in New York as part of a project with an email address. She then had interesting correspondences with strangers, and the whole project will be documented in Wei’s second upcoming book. “My idea was to give the flyers a sort of religious undertone—Have you found “Dog” as opposed to “God”—and organize the responses in a “book of revelations,” she said.

Over the years, Wei has shifted her goals in her artwork. “I’m interested in taking existing, more utilitarian media (for example a sex ed video at school, which is not an artistic piece) and transforming it into something new. I really like the idea of remaking something,” Wei said. “Overall, my goal is to start conversations with people. I like the idea of creating an experience for someone to take part in.” She is also beginning to re-appreciate flat mediums and drawing, and for physical art pieces, she enjoys working with fabric and stitching.

When looking for inspiration, Wei turns to a variety of modern artists, such as Lygia Clark, Louise Bourgeois, and Claes Oldenburg, and she has recently been inspired by cinema and film. “I really love The Holy Mountain and any Jodorowsky films; they’re so vibrant and garish, and so cool.” Wei also loves visiting New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Chelsea galleries. “I like looking at inspiration and then just going for it once I get that feeling. I like the thought process a lot, as well as the actual process of making,” she said.

Looking ahead, Wei plans to attend art school, and she hopes to one day hold her own gallery shows and participate in the professional fine arts world, as art is a passion she wishes to pursue for life. “I think some people treat [art] as a way to express yourself, and I see that, too,” Wei said. “I see art as a way of speaking with others.”

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