This is the House that Tiffany Built

Artist Tiffany Ma

Artist Tiffany Ma

“Where do the stairs lead to?”

“To wheverever you imagine,” artist Tiffany Ma retorts with a small giggle.

The house is covered with wire stairs. Some spiral, some with ambiguous endings, some blast through the roof and end with a chair up above your head. My journey with Tiffany, however, starts with the “Waiting Room.”

The Waiting Room is filled with crumbly tile; hilly and uneven with wire chairs. She looks up at me with happy eyes and tells me about this state of Limbo, an uncomfortable feeling of waiting. She then leads me to a rather spacious closet.

“What is the story of this closet with a chair?  “

“Sometimes, it’s not wants or dreams but moments that have happened in my life. Maybe not in my life, but in my mind.” Tiffany pauses to wonder if such a statement made sense. “Like my life IN my mind.”

Orchestrated Comfort brings to life Tiffany’s otherworldly imagination in the form of a dollhouse.

Artist Tiffany Ma

Artist Tiffany Ma

Artist Tiffany Ma

Each tiny room tells a story from her life. Ma continues to walk me through the rooms filled with childlike wonder, thoughts, and desires. The explanations are filled with playful contradictions of imagination and reality. As you peer into each door, you start to lose yourself in the dreamlike scenes.

Artist Tiffany Ma

I believe this is the strongest way to capture the essence of Tiffany’s art: be a child.

What makes a child happy? What makes you feel truly safe? A child is an uncomplicated human being. Understand that you can never underestimate the power of the hug and the lending of an ear.

It’s okay as an adult to still imagine things and make up stories and create this world. Everyone has their own different way of coping.

In two steps, I am in the Hug Room where you can insert your hand into the room and be held between two soft cushion pads. The the next window, the Listening Room has a giant ear you sit in front of and talk for hours with no mouth telling you to shut up. I circle around to the lawn and find porcelain blob animals without heads. Without faces, the idea of judgment is eliminated.

Artist Tiffany Ma

Artist Tiffany Ma

No adventure as a child is complete without flooding the imagination with elements of reality. What is reality without a little scare? “Things that you fear, you feel comfortable about as well. You worry and fear about something but it’s kind of a part of you now. You’re okay with it.” I venture into a small room with clocks everywhere. The artist explains that though this world has no concept of time, there’s room for it because it’s a part of her. “Even though I don’t want the clocks, I have to keep the clocks. Even though you don’t like it that much, you feel safe around it because you’re used to it.”

Artist Tiffany Ma

There can be no imagination without reality. There can be no reality without imagination. As Tiffany constantly plays with combining the concepts in Orchestrated Comfort, she understands that there is something amazing in both.

I think that’s the beauty of life, but also the difficulty because you can’t change life.

Her playful, life lesson banter reads like a storybook. She draws inspiration from Dr. Seuss and the idiosyncrasies of the character, Amelia Bedelia. Her favorite character known for being a funny, inept housekeeper who took what she was told to do in a literal sense. Ma’s eyes sparkle as she recollects the story of the “date cake” where Amelia is asked to make a date cake and proceeds to cut up a calendar and mix it with the batter.

Even the start of Ma’s career as an artist began as a child at the age of five. Her grandma had given her a small print book of Van Gogh’s artwork. Ma remembers hiding out in a closet at home to just look through it. She giggles at how ridiculously small the closet was when, as a child, she thought it was huge.

Her strong fascination with the home, the origin of all childhood, continues with the Grandpa Series — a set of small chairs constructed out of wire. Her grandparents lived in a small apartment in Hong Kong with aging chairs. Yet no matter how much the family begged, her grandpa refused to replace them. As a kid, Tiffany was scared he would fall asleep in a chair without handles. When he passed away, she thought about the Egyptians burying luxuries with pharaohs for them in the afterlife. “I made chairs for everything for him. I want him to feel rich of chairs!”

Artist Tiffany Ma

Artist Tiffany Ma

Artist Tiffany Ma

She toys with the childish notion that you can always kick out things you hate and the adult feeling of knowing you can never truly run away. The house series features edited images of a 1980s home and furniture magazine.

When I looked at them, I felt like they were a part of me. I wanted to take out what I didn’t want. By taking it out, it was like taking things out of the past. By doing that I realized the negative space protruded even more. By trying to take something away, it stands out and you have to deal with it.

Artist Tiffany Ma

Artist Tiffany Ma

Through my art, it’s conquering my own battles and struggles. By showing these kinds of pieces, I hope it helps other people conquer their own battles.

The Aquarium installation, a diorama showing several people struggling underwater, gives people the chance to understand that, in retrospect, the battle of isolation is not a lonely one. “We all have these thoughts.”

Artist Tiffany Ma

Artist Tiffany Ma

I left Ma’s studio feeling like I complicated so much in own my life by dealing with issues sideways. There is something beautiful in the simplicity of a child’s thought. There is no better comfort than someone telling you how important the imagination is to reality.

It’s okay as an adult to still imagine things and make up stories and create this world. Everyone has their own different way of coping.

 

Check out Tiffany Ma’s website.