Thoughts Turn to You, Tobias Wong

26/04/11 8:41 PM

 My thoughts turn to you, Tobias Wong, on this on this sunny day in California. I wish you were here to enjoy this magnificent day, exploring the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, with me.

I was made aware of Tobias Wong’s artwork/design-work by a friend in the New York art world. When describing Mr. Wong’s Dadaistic work, she became animated and expressive. “You HAVE TO see Tobi’s work. It’s one-of-a-kind. It takes aim at materialism, consumerism, the drug scene, functionality, form,  architecture, design, the environment, and all of society’s ‘isms.'” 

 I begin my journey in search of Tobias Wong.

I discover a photograph of Mr. Wong’s street installation piece. He filled plastic bags with air and pinned them on a homemade portable display pole.

What is he selling ?

 Dreams for $1. I write it again………..plastic bags filled with air. They are Mr. Wong’s version of dreams.

Dreams are illusive. Dreams are fast fleeting like a comet streaking across the night sky. Dreams are difficult to remember; to nail down. I want to know more about my dreams, yet I’m unable to do so. This causes friction and frustration.

Tobias sold dreams on New York streets. To me, this is a happy thought. This is how I think of you, Tobias.  Happy…. selling dreams as New Yorkers fail to pay attention to a brilliant mind amongst their presence.  A missed opportunity. Their loss.

I want to purchase a dream. My wallet is open. George Washington appears faded, green, crumpled, and grumpy. I imagine handing over my hard-earned buck to Tobias. I now own a dream. It’s tangible. It’s art.

A chair that lights up? Chairs are not suppose to illuminate. They are functional. Something to plunk your ass down into, crash, sit, and/or chill out. Tobias’ chair looks so inviting–and uninviting. I do not want to be the center of attention. The true me is shy. I do not want to glow.  I just want to read, dangle my right leg over the arm of a chair, fall asleep, read the Tufts University alumni magazine, or simply vegetate.  Tobias makes us think of every day objects in different ways and push us towards new realms of thinking. I like that.   Way-to-go, Tobias! You broke the mold–and left the mold in shards—-scattered across the wooden floor of a patron’s swanky million dollar Manhattan loft.

You took on corporate America with your gold plated coffee stirrer. Tobias bedazzled it with real gold. Ah…the golden arches.

A coffee stirrer is a bland, mundane plastic artifact of daily life. Mr. Wong ramped-it-up five levels andmade us aware that a simple pop culture artifact was a staple of the undergroundnd drug scene. Just like Marcel Duchamp, you took an overlooked artifact and leave us in a wake of thought. If this were a crit in art school, students would get it. We would clap and say, “right on.”  To those not familiar with Dada, most would scratch their heads and say, “What the #&%?”

Ah, Tobias’ smoking gloves.

Smoking is banned indoors in most places. Tobias, did you design your smoking gloves to be  fashioninable and cool–  or to keep you from the cold while smoking outdoors? Designing these gloves made me think of marketing 101 at Boston College. See a void. Fill it. Get rich. Laugh all the way to the bank.

Smoking gloves. Be seen smoking with Wong smoking gloves while possibly coming down with emphysema or lung cancer! Why do I sense George Carlin would have  latched on to this concept–and turned it into a comedy sketch?

To me, your sterling  silver encapsulated pills are the apex of your artistic brilliance.

Pop 1 silver pill. Take 2–they are small. Hell, take an handful. Mother’s little helpers go down easy with vodka on the rocks with a twist of lemon. 

As a society, we have a pill for most ailments.  Americans tend to like pills.  We produce and consume trillions of  pills.

Sad? Pop a pill. Ache? Pop a pill. Have acne? Pop a pill. Gas? Reach for pills. Having trouble with your wee wee? Pop a pill. Have nothing better to do? Pop a pill.

Pills. Pills. And more pills.

We all want to think we are special. Egalitarianism is a myth. Strike that. Egalitarianism is a lie. We all think our poop smells like roses, yet Tobias created a conduit to make our poop glitter with sterling silver. Was Mr. Wong trying to make us think that my poop is more valuable than YOUR poop?

 My poop glitters……………. does YOURS?   I shit silver! What do YOU shit? Plain brown?

Feel the put-down? Ouch.   

Tobias, when I heard you took your life I instantly felt sick to my stomach. The word is taboo yet I will write it in bold type.  SUICIDE. 

Anyone who has lost a friend, loved-one, family member, or acquaintance to suicide knows the emotional pain felt by those left behind. I want questions answered. With suicide, questions linger. WHY????  How could this have happened?  We may never know why.

Tobias,  you were much loved and admired for your work.

Back to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

I exit the 2nd floor of the Museum of Modern Art where several of Tobias Wong’s works are currently displayed.

I soooooooo want you to be by my side at this moment in time.

I envision we come across a docent tour. We stand in the back  listening  intently to the tour guide speak about your work. When it comes time for  questions, I leap outside our imaginary baseball on-deck circle. I’m up at first at bat.

“What was Mr. Wong THINKING  when he created this—thing? *&%$!  GD!!!!! This is &%$@! I’ don’t get it!”

Tobias. Your turn. Chime in. Work with me…………

“Yeah, what the *&%$!!! Is he on crack? You call this art? *&#%!”

 We leave the group and exit towards the stainless steel elevators. The same  shiny doors I once shot a self portrait that hangs on the wall, of the summer home, of one of my patrons.  We ride the elevator to the 5th floor– laughing only when  the doors close tight. 

We are now upstairs at the indoor/outdoor sculpture garden and cafe.  We have an espresso and split a slice of mocha cake while chatting about LB’shumongous spider sculpture. We kick back in a well designed modern chair. We chat about design, the Red Sox, not knowing all the words to the Canadian anthem, San Francisco bathed in fog, New York at night, The Blue Lagoon in Iceland,  the art projects we are currently working on, and the lack of affordable studio space for artists.

Oh, Tobias. How you would have loved this sun-drenched day in San Francisco.

Dada master.

Canadian who made it in Manhattan.

Though provoker.

Artist/designer  who now floats above us in a bed of dream-like clouds. 

$1  per dream.

Sleep in heavenly peace, amongst your clouds, Tobi.




Brendan Ben Feeney

18 Comments on “Thoughts Turn to You, Tobias Wong”

  1. uk Says:

    Excellent post! I listen to what you’re saying. In general your whole blog is a plus. I’m digging it.

  2. Giovanni Says:

    Happy Mothers Day to all the loving moms in the world! Tomorrow is Mothering Sunday and I know that eventhough it is celebrated on a different date depending on where you are, I just want to greet our mothers on this day!

    BBF’s editor thanks you for your post. Thank you for your international design flair. I’m sure Tobias’ mom feels a bit sad on this day, yet let us think of all that is good with this big wide world.

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  12. Ramonita B. Says:

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  15. UK 1033 Says:

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  16. An artist from Santa Fe, New Mexico Says:

    Many thanks for noting Tobias’ work. He was such a rising star in the art world. We are pleased, Ben, that you are keeping his good name alive by writing about his unique work—using your keen ability to articulate about art and artist’s work. When will we see you again in New Mexico? It has been a while.
    Regards, (Name withheld) A member of the Santa Fe Artist Community.

    BBF’s editor passes along this message to you from Ben:

    “It was a pleasure seeing your post appear on my laptop. I am in Providence, RI at the moment, enjoying the RISD Museum and resting before things crank up for September. I truly enjoyed my time in New Mexico. ‘Note to self….return to Santa Fe……paint…drink coffee with (name withheld).’ Deal?”
    My best to you and your family. Warm New England regards, Ben

  17. Lonn Says:

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  18. 10127Angles Says:

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