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Rowan's Group: Gallery Visit

Changing Identity: Recent Works by Women Artists from Vietnam
Keit Osadchuk

Changing Identity was an exhibition at that Weisman Art Museum at the U of M campus. This exhibit consisted of 35 artworks by a group of women Vietnamese artists. Media used ranged from paper to cloth to video to watercolor to photographs to wood. The pieces were organized in four rooms, each with about eight works collected on four walls. Sculptural pieces made out of wood were usually in a room with drawings, while photographs were grouped with more modern media such as video.

The main theme was Vietnamese culture in Vietnam and abroad, as well. Some artists portrayed daily life while others focused on specific heritage and culture traits associated with being of the Vietnamese nation. The individual pieces, however different in concepts they might have been, tied together as a whole by portraying Vietnam. One artist, for example, made series of plain, daily self-portraits in different locations across the globe where there has been Vietnamese culture present. Another artist has focused on portraying the traditional Vietnam with older materials like wood, paper, and cloth; making figures draped with long cloth, her work nods to the history of Vietnam. There is a connection to the work of Kentridge, in the sense that there is historical and cultural reference in both his work and that of the Vietnamese women in this exhibit. Their work is based on both their country as it is today and its history.

One great work was "Dialogue," 1998, by Dang Thi Khue, the oldest artist in the exhibition (b. 1946). Her piece consisted of 25 paper masks colored in different, rich tones, two of which were embellished with gold and silver. The masks were hung on the wall, arranged in a rhombus. The inspiration behind Dang Thi Khue's work has been the traditional spirit of the Vietnamese women.

This exhibit is a good insight to Vietnam's artists today, as it shows both tradition and modernity within the culture. The range of media and the detailed skill is inspiring and impressive, so I would recommend any friend to visit the gallery.