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Sneakers sculpted from ‘high-end trash’ will set foot in Tysons Corner Center this week

Falls Church artist Andy Yoder’s sneaker sculpture exhibit “Overboard” is coming to Tysons Corner Center (courtesy Overboard)

Take a seat, Ben Affleck. A new artistic statement about Nike’s trendy Air Jordans is coming to town.

Falls Church artist Andy Yoder’s well-traveled exhibit “Overboard” will take up residence at Tysons Corner Center starting this Friday (Oct. 13), the latest installation resulting from the mall’s ongoing collaboration with local arts agency ArtsFairfax.

Inspired by the “Great Shoe Spill of 1990,” where thousands of Nike shoes got dumped into the Pacific Ocean by a storm, Overboard features more than 250 “sneakers” that Yoder sculpted out of discarded materials from recycling bins. The traveling exhibition originally launched in D.C. in 2021 and was organized and curated by Auburn University’s Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art.

“I’m a big believer in the possibility of second chances, which is why this story has such appeal for me,” Yoder said in a press release. “Making art is a form of alchemy and being creative gives us the power to steer the ship, rather than bobbing around like a sneaker lost at sea. With this in mind, if you come across a shoe on the beach (or a flip flop, or a bottle), do the right thing, and toss it in the trash. You never know where it might go from there.”

A Cleveland Institute of Art graduate who also attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine, Yoder says his art is often driven by a desire to tweak or subvert domestic objects to challenge “the attitudes, fears and unwritten rules which have formed that [home] environment and our behavior within it.”

Here’s more on “Overboard” from Tysons Corner Center:

One of the most iconic and recognizable athletic shoes in the world, the Nike Air Jordan 5 catapulted into popularity in 1990. That same year, more than 80,000 pairs of Nike brand shoes and work boots fell into the Pacific Ocean from five shipping containers when their ship was overwhelmed by a storm while on route to the U.S. from South Korea. The “Great Shoe Spill of 1990” prompted a groundbreaking study of maritime currents by Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer. Using unique serial numbers on each sneaker, the oceanographer and his researchers gathered data from beachcombers worldwide who found the shoes as they washed ashore.

Instead of cloth or leather, Yoder uses fast food packaging, cereal boxes, luxury shopping bags, posters, and other discarded items – much like the salvaged and waterlogged shoes – to create art that commemorates the Great Shoe Spill while also calling attention to consumer culture’s effect on the environment, delivering the message in a non-preachy way.

The exhibit will be on display near Barnes & Noble on the mall’s first floor through mid-January 2024.

This will be the third exhibit to come from Tysons Corner Center and ArtsFairfax’s partnership, which began in July 2022. Currently slated to continue through at least the end of 2023, the initiative aims to promote the work of local artists and arts organizations to a wider audience.

The mall also partnered with Lorton’s Workhouse Arts Center this summer on a new mural and free workshops.