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Rachel Portesi

Andy Yoder with ”Overboard,” an installation his handmade replicas of Nike Air Jordans inspired by “The Great Sneaker Spill of 1990,” an incident in which five shipping containers containing 61,820 Nike sneakers were lost at sea.

The Arts

Museum to host discussion with sneaker artist

Andy Yoder’s ‘Overboard’ installation features replicas of Air Jordans made from recycled materials

“Overboard” is on view at BMAC through March 6, 2021. To participate in Yoder’s talk over Zoom, visit bit.ly/591-sneakers. The event will also be broadcast on Facebook live via the museum’s page. For more information, visit brattleboromuseum.org.

BRATTLEBORO—Artist Andy Yoder discusses “Overboard,” the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC) installation of his handmade replicas of Nike Air Jordans, on Thursday, Dec. 10, at 7 p.m. via Zoom and Facebook Live.

“Overboard” was inspired by what oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an authority on flotsam, has called “The Great Sneaker Spill of 1990.”

In that incident, 21 steel shipping containers were lost at sea during a storm. Of those, five contained Nike sneakers. Four of the containers broke open, releasing 61,820 into the waters of the Pacific Ocean, and they started washing up onto the shores of Oregon.

Introduced in the same year as the spill, the iconic sneaker became the template for Yoder’s showroom of 240 Air Jordan 5 replicas, each one made from recycled packaging or promotional materials.

“I hope the installation will bring attention to the impact of consumer culture on the environment, and more specifically the health of the oceans,” Yoder said in a news release.

“Overboard” has generated national and international interest in recent weeks, including coverage in The New York Times, Smithsonian, Sports Illustrated, Mashable, the Italian publication Artribune, and the Austrian magazine Schaufenster.

In an Observer article, Helen Holmes described Yoder’s sneakers as “both tongue-in-cheek and deadly serious; they’re as much engaging in consumer culture as they are rejecting it in search of something more meaningful.”

Yoder is a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Art and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. His work has been exhibited at the International Print Center New York, the Saatchi Gallery, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Reykjavik Art Museum, among many other venues.

He has been commissioned to create work for numerous public installations, including for the Columbus Museum of Art, the ESPN Zone in New York, and Hilltop Montessori School in Brattleboro. He lives in Falls Church, Va.

Unlike most works exhibited at BMAC, Yoder’s sneakers are available for purchase, with proceeds split between the artist and the museum.

A number of the shoes feature local organizations and businesses, including The Putney School, Latchis Theatre, Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, Whetstone Station, and Retreat Farm. Details are at brattleboromuseum.org.

“This year has been challenging for the Museum, as it has been for so many arts organizations,” said BMAC Director Danny Lichtenfeld. “Andy’s generosity is a welcome boost at a time when some of our usual sources of revenue have evaporated.”

“Overboard” was originally conceived and developed for CulturalDC’s Mobile Art Gallery. Due to COVID-19, the exhibit was unable to debut as intended.

Following its showing at BMAC, “Overboard” will return to Washington, D.C., to be exhibited with CulturalDC in spring 2021.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #591 (Wednesday, December 9, 2020). This story appeared on page B1.

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