Magic Moments

With their post-Pop artworks, FriendsWithYou cultivates positivity and joy

In 2002, artist Samuel Borkson partnered with Cuban-born artist Arturo Sandoval III to create a fine arts collaborative called FriendsWithYou. From plush toys to paintings, sculptures, animations, large-scale experiential installations, and more recently, virtual reality, their boundary-breaking artworks aim to inspire happiness, connectivity, and a sense of magic. Drawing on animism, childlike symbolism, and modern rituals, the Los Angeles-based artists create work that expresses simple, everyday joy. Irony and cynicism not included.

“Our goal is to be a beacon of light and help people feel better instead of feeling hurt and isolated in the world,” Borkson explains. “Our artistic medium is life, connectivity, and culture, and we dream as big as our heads can go.”

In October, OMCA will present the world premiere of their magical, multisensory installation, Nature’s Gift: Humans, Friends & the Unknown. The large-scale inflatable sculpture—which extends 55 feet long, 34 feet deep, and 15 feet tall—is illuminated by bright, multicolored LED lights and features layers of texture and sound. Intended to create a world of its own, this joyful installation will transform the Museum into a magical place for play, exploration, relaxation, and just enough reality-bending to transport you outside of yourself for a moment in time.

Nature’s Gift is a cathedral of light that people can experience in many ways,” Sandoval says. “We want people to feel a special connection with the work and with each other. The intention is to bring people together through a joyful, immersive experience that’s accessible and welcoming to all.”

Acclaimed for their interactive soft-sculpture and public-art installations, the artists have exhibited FriendsWithYou pieces around the world, including at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Art Basel in Miami Beach; Dallas Contemporary; Galerie Perrotin, New York; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; The High Line, New York; The Hole, New York; The Indianapolis Museum of Art; Marine Projects, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara; and most recently at the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles.

This year also marks their debut of True & the Rainbow Kingdom, an animated children’s series featured on Netflix.

“FriendsWithYou has the sole purpose of spreading the positive messages of magic, luck, and friendship,” Borkson says. “We hope Nature’s Gift will create a ritual space that’s both public and intimate.”

Photography: Ira Chernova.

Nature’s Gift: Humans, Friends & the Unknown is supported in part by the Oakland Museum Women’s Board.

Nature’s Gift

The world premiere of a whimsical exhibition sets the stage for positivity and social connection in OMCA’s Great Hall.

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