VISUAL ARTS | Weisman exhibit showcases Vietnamese women artists

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On its final stop of a two-year U.S. tour, a one-of-a-kind exhibit featuring Vietnamese women artists debuted Sunday at the Weisman Art Museum.

“Changing Identity: Recent Works by Women Artists from Vietnam” is the first major U.S. art exhibition featuring the work of contemporary Vietnamese women.

Featured artist Phuong Do, who uses photography as her medium, said each piece of art in the exhibit is distinctly personal for each of the ten artists.

“They are internal thoughts that are not seen from the outside world,” Do said.

The art varied from photography and ink drawings to paintings and video performance .

For Do, the only artist present for the exhibits’ opening, inspiration for her photographs came from her work with refugees in southeast Asian communities, as well as her personal experiences as a Vietnamese-American .

After the Vietnam War and the movement of refugees to America, Do said younger generations felt a strong disconnect between traditional Vietnamese expectations and the norms of American society.

“I think at that time, maybe it still exists today, where there isn’t enough for immigrants who come to this country to address these issues and conflict that a family might experience,” Do said.

Her photographs are portraits of herself and her family, taken in the U.S., France and Vietnam, in their daily lives.

While Do’s relatives appear unaware that the photograph is being taken, she looks straight at the lens in every shot.

It’s through her work, Do said, that she hopes to examine issues like cultural identity, ethnicity, and nationalism.

Weisman student intern Kelly Valusek said museum staff worked to involve University of Minnesota students and the community in the artwork and its representations.

“We want people to discuss certain things revolving around the exhibit: the context of women artists and the role of women artists in the community,” Valusek, a senior art history major , said.

Weisman Events Coordinator Chris Cunnington said she enjoyed the tone of the exhibit.

“It definitely appeals to a darker side of me as far as the artwork in the show,” Cunnington said. “It’s a dark and very eclectic mix of art from the different Vietnamese women artists.”

Cunnington said the exhibit will resonate with anyone who has been transplanted to a new culture.

“If you’re Somalian, if you’re Hmong, if you’re Vietnamese, even if you’re still Scandinavian, you wind up here on your feet like ‘What do I do?’,” Cunnington said.

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