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Once for a While

Upcoming Solo Exhibition   -   Jan-Feb 2022   -   Chapel Gallery   -   Victoria BC

As a child of Vietnamese refugees, I have never felt comfortable in traditional Canadian spaces including art galleries. This is due in part to the underrepresentation of subjects I could relate to. From my experience, collections exhibited in Victoria rarely depicted Asian figures; when they were, they were characterized as exotic or magical. But, it wasn’t until a recent incident that I recognized the current opportunity I have as an artist to contribute to a different way of representing Asian figures in art.   

In 2018 a noticed a local magazine article that featured food vendors of Victoria’s China Town. It happened to feature eleven white entrepreneurs and one Asian one, despite the fact that the majority of Victoria China Town’s entrepreneurs are Chinese-Canadian or Vietnamese-Canadian. This instance highlighted for me how few people from diverse cultural backgrounds have found their way into mainstream culture in Victoria.

Once for a While depicts what it is like to grow up in a new immigrant family while balancing two different cultural value-sets and expectations. Specific moments from my childhood and two from memories of other Vietnamese-Canadians will balance the various compositions aesthetically and thematically. The intention is to capture humorous moments where cultures have clashed. This lighter approach is designed to make the project more widely inviting and increase accessibility to the general public.

I’d also like to challenge the idea that asian artists must self-orientalize to fit into the western imagination in order to gain acceptance by western audiences.  There will be no women wearing áo dài here.

Progress Photos & Updates

Camping (working title)

An example of the many studies completed before painting Camping. The end result looks nothing like any of these. Also there's a monkey in it now. Through this, the first completed painting of the series, I learned many many hard lessons.

Pool Party and Christmas Dinner

Visualized from a story describing a public swimming pool in Vietnam, Pool Party depicts a pool filled with people, shoulder-to-shoulder, completely clothed. A secondary/alternative painting will depict a family fully clothed uncomfortably sitting beside an empty pool, too modest to enter.

On their first Christmas in Canada my parents were given a turkey. Not understanding what it meant, they chopped it up and made curry for the year. This painting depicts a mother preparing the Christmas turkey curry.

Hard Lessons

This painting is about me wanting to fish a birthday present out of an apartment building dumpster. I've got some decent dumpster models lined up as you can see below, but I didn't imagine how difficult it would be to find parents who would allow their child to fish around in a dumpster. This painting is currently on hold awaiting "progressive" parents who will allow their child to model for this painting.

Biking for Charity and Heart-to-Heart

Biking for Charity : A man is riding his bike for pleasure while his Vietnamese relatives drive along side him in their luxury vehicle, jeering about how his finances must be in trouble because bike riding is only for the poor. 


Heart-to-Heart: A father sits at the dinner table explaining to his daughters that ‘it’s ok to be gay’.  This is his theory for explaining why his daughters have brought shame to his family for being single so late into their 20s. They must be hiding a secret.

These two paintings are waiting for better weather and, more importantly, the end of the pandemic to bring models together to create reference materials.

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