Bundith Phunsombatlert: Mapping Fragments
BPL Presents is proud to share the artwork of artist Bundith Phunsombatlert, the BPL 2023 Katowitz-Radin Artist-in-Residence, including two bodies of artwork that represent rich cultural dialogues and celebrate the memories and lived experiences of migration. Braiding media, materials, and oral history together, these artworks serve as a map of global diaspora.
Sunny Garden in Blue: Stories from the Caribbean to Brooklyn builds upon a workshop inviting senior Brownsville residents to create personal cyanotype ‘gardens’. Phunsombatlert, originally from Thailand, discovered that many of the participants are also immigrants, hailing from Caribbean countries. The artist was inspired to collect stories of their journeys to the United States. Represented in digital prints and cyanotype as an artist’s book, the project pairs specific plant cultivars and scientific details alongside drawn portraits of the participants with personal stories of immigration, transition, and colonization.
Sunny Garden in Blue was inspired by Anna Atkins’ first photographic book, which made use of cyanotype, a simple photographic printing method invented in 1842 which creates blue pictures when light-sensitized paper is exposed to sunlight. Atkins taxonomy placed dried specimens with handwritten text descriptions as scientific illustrations. Phunsombatlert’s version of the cyanotype book, pairing the immigrants’ stories with images of plants that are significant to their personal histories, adds the immigrant experience absent from Atkin’s original work.
His second body of work, Mapping Fragments: History of Blue and White Porcelain creates a new style of ceramic that weaves together a media art technique of blue and white porcelain with the historical context of immigration, tracing their unseen paths and stories. For this project, porcelain pieces referencing U.S. Museum collections are overlaid and digitally transferred with images of plants that were brought to the U.S. through the Transatlantic Slave Trade – a forced migration that’s considered the first system of globalization. The selected plants are based on oral interviews with Caribbean senior immigrants in the US, as are those in Sunny Garden in Blue.
These two ongoing, interconnected projects function to decolonize the traditional archives that classify and document people and plants in the service of an imperial-colonial perspective. Focusing on the personal stories of the immigrants and the plants that held special meanings to them provides a gentle approach to storytelling, revealing personal histories that are often omitted in other grand narratives.
About the Artist
“Drawing upon my personal experience of immigration and its history, my recent projects trace the unseen paths of immigrants and their immigration stories through real and imagined landscapes. By merging contemporary technologies with traditional forms of media, the artworks offer a unique definition of “new” media art defined not simply using technology, but by revealing a fresh “new” meaning of something old. Through contemplating how the journeys and their interpretation can be works of art, these projects seek to explore ways that individuals connect with their personal backgrounds and cultural identities and reinvent traditional interpretations of history.”
Bundith Phunsombatlert has been named the 2023 Katowitz-Radin Artist-in-Residence at Brooklyn Public Library. His work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally for over twenty years. Selected exhibitions include at the International Studio and Curatorial Program, NY; Wave Hill, NY; Osage Gallery, Hong Kong; International Print Center New York; Smack Mellon, NY; Delaware Art Museum; Cuchifritos Gallery, NY; Flushing Meadows Corona Park/Queens Museum; NYC DOT’s Urban Art Program; Socrates Sculpture Park, NY; Changwon Asian Art Festival, South Korea; Location One, NY; The Auckland Triennial, New Zealand; The Guangzhou Triennial, China; The National Gallery, Thailand; The Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Australia; and The International Biennial of Graphic Art, Slovenia.
He has been awarded grants and residencies from the Puffin Foundation West, Brooklyn Arts Fund, Center for Book Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, Harpo Foundation, Eyebeam, MacDowell Colony, Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Djerassi Resident Artists Program, Skowhegan, Hong Kong International Artists Workshop, Location One, Asian Cultural Council, Second Prize UNESCO Digital Arts Award at the 12th International Symposium on Electronic Arts (ISEA2004), and Grand Prize of the Contemporary Art Exhibition in Thailand. His projects have been reviewed in Art in Print’s Prix de Print, Public Art Review, Wall Street Journal, Artnet News, Hyperallergic, Art Asiapacific, and Asian Art News.
Phunsombatlert received an MFA in Digital+Media from Rhode Island School of Design, USA; and a BFA/MFA in Printmaking from Silpakorn University, Thailand. He lives and works in New York and Bangkok, Thailand.
About the Katowitz Radin Artist-in-Residence Program at Brooklyn Public Library
Instituted in 2014, the annual residency supports emerging and established artists to meaningfully engage with BPL’s collections, programs, and services as a way to expand their artmaking practice. The program began with renowned jazz vocalist Cilla Owens. Since then, children’s illustrator Pat Cummings, painter Steve Keene, visual artist Molly Crabapple, artist and educator Kameelah Janan Rasheed, artist and environmental activist Mary Mattingly, conceptual artist Chloë Bass, and media artist Marisa Morán Jahn have each been awarded the residency.