For his 2016 exhibition at the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, Tom Friedman reinterpreted objects from the museum’s collection, transforming the pieces to “represent a contemporary dialogue with art from the past.” Here, Friedman altered Dorothea Lange’s photograph Migrant Pea Pickers from 1938, singling out two people within the anonymous line of field workers. Discussing his process for the exhibition, Friedman said:
I really wanted to respond to the image and the information that was there empirically and visually, make decisions, and then once I reached a certain point, I would read a little more about the work. I think that when I’m done, I’ll probably have read a bit about each piece, but in the beginning, I really like the idea of not knowing. Interesting things come out that I didn’t realize, like with [Dorothea Lange’s] photograph Migrant Pea Pickers. Even though it’s really about this line of immigrants, I noticed the subtext about the mother and son… I’m responding to it, and it goes back and forth, creating this dialogue between the original piece and what it’s becoming, what my piece is.
While Friedman isolates each of the figures, translating their bodies and baskets of crops into pastel silhouettes, the emotional draw of the work comes from the stark contrast of the woman and child he has left in the original black-and-white format. Friedman layers his own narrative onto Lange’s photograph, since the actual relationship between the two is unknown. Solo exhibitions of Friedman’s work have been held at MoMA, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; and at the Prada Foundation, Milan. Friedman’s work is in numerous public collections, including MoMA, New York; SFMoMA; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; LA MoCA; and Dallas Cowboys Art Collection. Friedman was the honored artist for 2006 TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art.