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collect the exhibition

This year, select pieces from the 'At the Table' Playing Cards series were displayed at the Hoxton, Chicago.

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Welcome to my exhibition at The Hoxton, Chicago! I am thrilled to be showcasing selected works from my 'At the Table' playing card series, which explores themes of community, connection, and traditions shared around the table.

Chicago has been my home for most of my life and thus the site of many of the stories behind these artworks; it's fitting that this vibrant city is hosting the first ever exhibition of this body of work. The show will be on display through June, 2023 in The Hoxton lobby - a lively yet homey space that truly feels like a house party put on by your coolest friend.

The pieces on display are giclee prints of playing cards from my 'At the Table' series, presented in museum-quality frames that use archival materials like acid-free matboard and UV-filtering glass to protect and preserve the artwork for decades to come.

If you find a particular piece that speaks to you, I invite you to consider making it a part of your personal collection via the shopable gallery below. To inquire about custom framing or bulk pricing, please shoot me a note at taryn@arynlei.com.

I am passionate about creating art that connects people and fosters a sense of community. Through my 'At the Table' series, I hope to inspire conversations and forge connections that will last long after the exhibition has ended. Thank you so much for stopping by!

xo, arynlei

ten of hearts

After a Thanksgiving meal, some families draw names for secret Santa, while others play a friendly game of touch football or simply get comfy in the living room for a communal nap. My family, however, always turned to competition, whether it be intense ping pong tournaments or only slightly less intense games of Texas Hold ’Em around the very same table we just ate at. My brother and I learned many different poker games young, but Texas Hold ‘Em remained a favorite for the ability to bluff in silly and disarming ways, something we excelled at as children. No mercy was shown to us for our age so we needed to use every advantage we had to keep up with the much more clever and experienced adults at the table. The more unpredictable and downright unreadable we were, the better we fared. Still, we lost frequently, and often relied on “loans” from other players, or pooled our chips and played as a team to stay in the game for as long as possible. As it turned out, the real victory wasn’t in collecting the most chips, but rather in staying in the game just long enough for someone else to have already washed all the Thanksgiving china.

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five of diamonds

It was a brutally cold January in 2014. I was in Longji, China, wandering the mountain town alone instead of hiking the rice terraces with my class, as the airline had lost my luggage and I didn’t have the proper outerwear for a hike in the snow. Longji is very hilly with steep stone steps and narrow passageways. It is typically buzzing with tourists, but the weather conditions made roads up to the town treacherous that day. Nothing was open. In my insufficient layers I was freezing and regretting leaving the hotel.

That was, until a small older woman poked her head out from her closed shop and, with a concerned expression, motioned me to enter. Maybe it was her grandmotherly demeanor, or maybe it was that I stood a full foot taller than her, but I felt safe enough to follow her inside. Her shop was dimly lit, on one wall was a full display of colorful, intricately embroidered tunics, and in the corner sat a tiny table, its too-large tablecloth pooling on the ground around it, and with it, two mini stools that fit my host’s petite proportions perfectly. 

 

My mandarin was bad - not that it mattered here, the Miao or hill-people of China speak their own entirely different languages - but I understood she wanted me to sit. Cautious, I struggled to fold my legs under the tiny table as she swung the table cloth over my lower half. Sudden heat stung my frozen toes, and I realized - there was a space heater beneath. For the next hour, we sat together, communicating with a mix of charades and broken mandarin. She served me tea and showed me the embroidery she was working on. And long after I had regained feeling in my fingers, I purchased a piece and left. Nine years later, I still have that tunic and cherish the warm memory it invokes.

five of clubs

Couchsurfing is a beautiful thing. The trust and kindness of strangers opening up their homes and lives to travelers, giving them a safe place to sleep and experiences often unattainable from traditional methods of tourism, will always be worth marveling at. I was brought to Hong Kong for the first time for academic reasons - an electronic art symposium of all things - and chose to couchsurf for as much of my stay as I could. I had a few days to relax before the symposium began, so I let chance decide how I would spend them. My very first host took me in despite already hosting two other young women from Spain, his modest apartment on a nearby island becoming my home for three short days. The four of us wandered the car-free island on foot, sustained ourselves on fruit from local vendors and meals at quaint local restaurants, but most of our time was spent at the beach. My host had, over the years, accumulated a generator, huge speakers that took teamwork to move, and all the necessary DJ equipment to turn the beach into a 48 hour party each weekend. Music, like food, has its way of bringing people together, and here we were with so many others, a truly global group of people all sitting in the sand, drinking cheap beer, and taking turns on the mixing table. I’ll never forget the feeling of privilege and gratitude that came with being one of the many paths that by coincidence intersected that weekend.

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king of spades

I grew up never fully understanding just how lucky I was to call Lebanon my home, but that changed when I moved to the United States for college. Soon enough, I was counting down the seconds until the end of each semester, desperate to go back home, back to my family. My favorite memories from those visits were the reunions shared over a full-blown Lebanese dinner. I’m talking hummus, baba ghannouj, tabbouleh, grape leaves, makanek, kebbe, shawarma, aarayes, and SO MUCH MORE. Seriously. Lebanese people are the best at mezze, so much so that you will barely have room for an entree after inhaling twenty different plates of appetizers.


Unfortunately, those visits abruptly came to a halt in 2019 when an economic crisis in Lebanon began, aggravated by the government’s extreme neglect and corruption. Pair that with the pandemic and a detrimental explosion in 2020, and I became stuck in the States, robbed from going home and being with the people I loved.


It took a long time, but I finally made my way back three years later, in September of 2022. The minute I got off that plane, it was as though something in me reemerged. I know that sounds cliche, but a part of me that was dormant for years was suddenly awakened, and I was surrounded by the warmth of familiarity. After landing, we made our way to Mounir, a local restaurant up in the mountains of Brummana that my family frequented nearly every week in the summer for good food and breathtaking views. I reunited with cousins, uncles, aunts, and a grandmother I had not seen in years. Once all the tears were shed, I nearly started crying again when the plates started arriving at our table. I cannot even begin to describe how it felt eating all the food I couldn’t enjoy in the US…it was like tasting it all for the very first time.


That dinner lasted about 4 hours, filled with food, laughter, catching up, and reminiscing on Lebanon’s better days. For the next 10 days on that trip, every meal I had was a cathartic experience as I fell in love with being home once more. Needless to say, I cannot wait to go back and do it all over again.


Submitted by Maria.

three of clubs

During winter break when my sister and I were young, it was simply expected for us to set up the folding table, put on our box set of “in living color”, and play monopoly with our mom and dad. During the game, when one of us would start to run low on money, under the table we would “secretly” share with whoever needed it. The collective guilt we would feel seeing the disappointment on one of our faces when having to leave the game was more than enough to motivate us to give up our own fake bills. Because of this, most years we would have to photocopy and print more money to avoid running out. Needless to say, the game would last the full two weeks of break and only end because my sister and I had to go back to school. Those weeks from break all sitting together talking and laughing are still some of my favorite times with my little family.

 

Submitted by Amber.

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eight of hearts

The presence of a mahjong table can fill an entire room. Four pairs of hands shuffle the green backed tiles, the clinking echoes and bounces off the walls, followed by silence and tension as the players focus assembling their hands. The other inhabitants in the room always find their way to the table side either to observe, to inquire, or to aid. Each table has its own house rules. 

Some play a few rounds, some play through the night, but a game of mahjong is always an occasion. Like poker, mahjong has different suits, countless hands, and a million possibilities.

Submitted by Jade.