the chrysanthemum has opened twelve times (Banner), 2020, contains a line from a letter written by a wife left behind in China to her husband, who was working in Canada in the 1930s. In Chinese culture, chrysanthemums, which open only once a year, denote the passage of time. The text on the banner reminds this man that it has been twelve years since the couple has seen each other. In inscribing this deeply personal sentiment, Karen Tam draws attention to how this family’s story of sacrifice, separation, and longing was common among those experiencing political and economic turmoil in China who sought a better life abroad in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Karen Tam, the chrysanthemum has opened twelve times (Banner), 2020
Velvet, glitter on canvas, fringe tassels, 59 x 142 cm, Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Hugues Charbonneau, Montreal. Photo credit: Toni Hafkenscheid.