“These Strong Sneakers,” paper mache molded around used sneakers and redesigned in layers of paper pulp, is a testament to the varied journeys everyday people embark on throughout their busy lives, mapping the footsteps of real people, including myself.
The first in a series of five called “These Strong Sneakers,” this pair is part map, part memory from London, a city I’ve visited, walked, and lingered in. While I enjoy discovering other cultures and urban centers of the world, I’m particularly connected to London, an immense city that combines urban living with nature and walkable small neighborhoods.
Sneakers sometimes are the only shoes I can wear for long hours that are pain-free and comfortable. Sneakers allow me to walk and stand longer hours and in a sense, enhance my city experience as I wear them. They protect my feet from hot asphalt and harmful debris like glass, stones and wire. Functioning like an extension to our bare feet, they take us places in a gentler way, help us prolong our experiences, and protect our feet. They might bear the marks of tears or dents on the outside but remain intact on the inside.
But sneakers for me have deeper significance beyond the walking or running factor and fashion statement. They have the stamp of hundreds of footsteps, experiences, and footprints. They tell a story, give away their owners’ secrets. Inspired by the strength of the sneakers and the comfort and movement they provide, I created artwork that represents movement but meaning too.
Sneakers might reveal if their owners are in hurry or take their time. If their owners are adventuring off the beaten track or following the usual path; whether they’re running or walking an extra mile, each time giving more and more of themselves. They might reveal their easygoing or unvarying personality keeping their usual gait. Sneakers might say if an owner kept their sneakers clean and whether an owner is protective about their feet or not.
My sneakers might say that I venture far enough to explore but not far enough to get lost. They also might say that I’m very protective of my feet. My pace is fast and I like to take a variety of ways to get to the same spot. I approach life in the same way.
I used black because somehow I thought of a city at night while doing the “doodle map,” a small version of a map. I used acrylic paints for the background and permanent marker for the doodle map.
“These Strong Sneakers,” 2015, paper mache, recycled newspaper, and markers and colors.