Unveiling Identities in New Art Exhibition


Image of guest curator Kim Phan Nguyễn ’21.

In Passing: Ann Le & Trinh Mai” is organized by guest curator Kim Phan Nguyễn ’21. Courtesy of Kim Phan Nguyễn 

Join the School of Art and The Art Galleries at TCU for the opening of “In Passing: Ann Le & Trinh Mai,” an exhibition featuring new work by second-generation Vietnamese American women on Wednesday, Aug. 30, at the Fort Worth Contemporary Arts Gallery.

Organized by guest curator Kim Phan Nguyễn ’21, the exhibition explores the universal themes of migration, resilience, memory and identity.

“Family traditions and stories touch and connect all of our lives,” Nguyễn said. “Knowing where we come from is an important foundation to know who we are today.”

Migration and Identity in Art

Nguyễn’s journey to create the exhibition began with a seminar project that explored the topic of movement and its profound impact on art history, genres and artists.

“Drawing from my exhibition background, I wanted to create a show centered on how artists address themes about migration and diaspora,” she explains.

Nguyễn approached her seminar professor to discuss exploring movement through people in a contemporary context. Her professor asked questions to narrow exhibition ideas and encouraged Nguyễn to draw from her personal background for inspiration.

“My professor told me, ‘Who we are shapes what we care about and what we want to do in life.’”

The project transitioned to the class writing term papers, but the idea of curating an exhibition lingered in her mind.

Image of Sara-Jayne Parsons, The Art Galleries at TCU Director

Sara-Jayne Parsons is the The Art Galleries at TCU Director.

Nguyễn sought guidance from The Art Galleries at TCU Director Sara-Jayne Parsons and the former gallery manager Lynne Bowman-Cravens for advice on curating an exhibition proposal.

“Both worked with students on previous curatorial projects, and I remember viewing an exhibition in my first year curated by a former student, which was really inspiring.”

Instead, Parsons asked her to serve as a guest curator for the exhibition.

“It came out of the blue,” recalls Nguyễn. “My heart felt like it was about to burst; it was an honor to be considered by someone I looked up to.”

A New Legacy

The exhibition features Ann Le and Trinh Mai, who share their unique perspectives as children of Vietnamese immigrants through photography, sculpture, video and installation.

Image of artwork in the exhibition

The exhibition features photography, sculpture, video and installation.

“It was important to find artists who could authentically speak on migration and its effects,” Nguyễn said. “There’s a visual honoring of ancestors and highlighting the ordinary as something much more worthy.”

“Digital media can be a slippery and unreliable medium,” said Le. “This is a physical glitch of memory. The material is important here, the idea that technology can go back into the past and remake this intervention real. I’m projecting memories, rendering the slick and strangeness of flat pictures but in a 3D space.”

Both artists present a mix of new and older artworks, making storytelling, memory and family pivotal to Nguyễn’s selection process. Each piece examines how history is documented in the public, which in the case of war, is focused on politics and tragedy.

“I’m weaving family history and memories together because I believe the refugee story has always been a constant,” said Mai.

The exhibition acknowledges the painful past Vietnamese refugees experienced, aiming to transform the trauma into healing and a new identity.

“The Vietnam War is so tied into people’s first impressions of our culture even though it’s been over fifty years,” said Nguyễn. “I think about Nick Ut’s famous photograph of Kim Phuc, the napalm girl, and her family running after their village was bombed. She’s been memorialized forever as a victim of a horrible act but what about her life before and who she is now?”

Learn more about “In Passing: Ann Le & Trinh Mai.”

See the calendar for upcoming events.