THE PAINTER RETURNS
Washington DC: “Bleeding in the Gulf,” a 100-foot long, 8 foot tall mural collection of 120 paintings about the current BP oil spill by artist Huong, was unveiled in DC at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center during the 2010 Annual Conference of the American Library Association in June. The mural was displayed for 3 days only and viewed exclusively by 25,000 librarians and exhibitors who attended the conference this year.
“ Huong is the first artist I have seen to respond to this catastrophic oil spill crisis in one big wave, it is so powerful !” said Julie Williams from San Jose.
Standing in front of the Mural, Erin B of the American Library Association in DC expressed her emotions: “I feel paralyzed by this mural, like the spill itself, it’s too big for me to comprehend”.
Huong, a Vietnamese refugee whose powerful and emotional art sterns back to her years in Alaska, born in the year the war began, this dynamic, talented artist studied journalism to document the atrocities of war until the fall of Saigon, when she escaped on a boat with her infant son. They eventually made it safely to United States, and Huong found her way to Alaska.
With extremely limited English, she was unable to work as journalist. Instead, she started to paint for the first time – focusing on the quiet, peaceful scenes of the Alaskan landscape. Early work featured puffins, walrus and fish, as well as abstract
Contemporary interlocking figures of indigenous peoples cuddling to stay warm. Self-taught, she developed her talents and paid her bills by teaching Art at Kodiak Community College and eventually opened her First gallery – The Northern Exposure –on this island in Alaska.
“Alaska helped to heal the pain in my heart.” Huong said “I arrived a child of war and left a woman and artist for peace.”
Words of her talents soon spread, garnering her praise throughout the nation. She made her first impression on Washington in 1985, when she held one-woman Alaskan Art Exhibit in the Capitol Rotunda, at the Russell Senate Office Building, and followed up with 85 solo exhibits nationwide and Canada.
In 2000, 25 years after the end of the Vietnam war, Huong presented one of the most significant projects of her career, the series: Fragments of War, that reflect the crude horror of this arm conflict. Working on this series helped her confront the tragedies in her life- the loss of her family, the trials of adapting to a new land, among others between 2003 and 2009 Huong created The Peace Mural, an assemblage of 2,000 works that represent her protest against the Iraq war. Another project, USALive
Dedicated to President Barack Obama, is traveling to 50 cities in the United States. The process of creating USALive began with the inauguration of the President and end in December 10,2009 when he traveled to Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize, attributing to the ideological and social change that the nation experienced in that year.
This summer, before moving forward to New Orleans, Mississippi and Alabama, the states were hardest hit by the BP oil spill to complete the Bleeding in the Gulf Mural. Huong will take a break in August, the painter will return Alaska second time in 20 years to revisit her first adopted home, the northern frontier where she first encountered Peace and snow in her life, raised her son and learned to smile again, “I hold the Alaska spirit forever in my heart, thank you Alaska for the nurturing and encouragement from the beginning” Huong smiles.
It was a very happy ending. Indeed.
Huong painting at Mendenhall Glacier. Juneau, Alaska. 1982
Huong -Life of the Eskimo. 1982. Oil on paper
Huong. Life in the Harbor. Kodiak Island, Alaska. 1980