Artist Anh-Thuy Nguyen, based in Tucson, Arizona and Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, explores migration and personal experiences through multimedia works.
Anh-Thuy Nguyen, dressed in a white áo dài, drags a straw bag filled with sand across the dunes of the iconic White Sands National Park. The bag erases her steps behind her but leaves its own unnatural line behind. In another scene, she stops to take sand from the bag to fill in her footsteps, trying futilely to correct the disturbance she leaves on the environment.
Thuy & Sand (2017) is part of a larger series, Thuy &, in which Nguyen employs a semi-autobiographical character to process her experiences as an immigrant. The series began at a time when Nguyen was unable to return to Vietnam, perhaps a parallel to how the gypsum that makes up White Sands was entrapped, exposed, and ground down to the dunes we admire today.
In her 2012 work Processing of Affection, Nguyen-as-Thuy prepares a whole fish. With a dull cleaver on a shaky table, Thuy guts the fish and cuts it in sections traditional to Vietnamese cuisine. The gore of food preparation highlights the violence enacted in order to nourish those you love.
Nguyen’s photography, video, and performance make use of objects that reflect her Vietnamese heritage and ask questions about what happens to us when we’re forced to remake ourselves. The close frame of Processing of Affection contrasts with the distance of Thuy & Sand, yet both depict a person alone, battling with what they must in order to live.
“The overarching themes of my work focus on the idea of cultural identity, personal politics, cultural differences through the use of symbolic meanings that are embedded with my home family and traditions,” Nguyen says. “I find ways to weave my personal journey as an outsider, an immigrant, a daughter, a female, a wife, a mother, into my artistic practice to create projects that explore and exhibit the experience.”