Photographs by Pao Houa Her
Last night I attended the opening of a group show by Hmong artists at Homewood Gallery in North Minneapolis. The show has become an annual event, organized by the Hmong Arts Connection (HArc). It includes photographs, prints, paintings and drawings. Dyane Garvey is with HArc; she said HArc is trying to encourage artistic expression amongst Hmong people. In traditional Hmong culture art is incorporated into everday life, but is not necessarily respected as a career in its own right, she said.
Happy by Galea Vajxyooj
While at the opening I talked to John Kong, one of the artists. Kong is particularly skilled in animation, and used to dream of working for Disney. He said it took a long time to convince his parents that being an artist was worthwhile, but after he won several art competitions they changed their mind. Ultimately their support became extremely important in getting him through art school, Kong said.
Gao Zoua Pang by Kao Lee Thao
According to Dyane Garvey part of the goal of the HArc exhibition is to boost the work of Hmong artists within their own community. Last year she went door to door in the neighborhood, inviting families to attend the show. John Vang responded to the invite, and left a note saying how much the exhibition meant to him as an art student. This year, his work is on the walls.
White Trees in Autumn by Mai C. Vang
The exhibition also serves as a window into Hmong American culture and identity. In “White Trees in Autumn” by Mai C. Vang (seen above), Vang adds the following text to her painting:
Sometimes when snow covers everything in Minnesota
I stare out my bedroom window and sigh.
Childhood passes us so swiftly, fall becomes winter when we blink,
oh I wish that I could always have white trees in autumn.
“New Directions in Hmong Art” will be on display at Homewood Gallery in North Minneapolis through July 31st.