"an irregularly spread or scattered group or mass"

Month: June 2023

Reflecting on “Second Sources” by Genie Hien Tran at White Bear Center for the Arts

This reflection is also available as a zine.

I stopped by the opening reception for Second Sources by Genie Hien Tran at White Bear Center for the Arts. This exhibition is on view April 24-June 16, 2023 at 4971 Long Ave. White Bear Lake, MN 55110.

a drawing of a yellow gate over a photograph of medical equipment

Genie Hien Tran, “Untitled (merging)”

I was lucky to be present for the artist talk on this body of work, and one of the concepts that stood out to me was the squishiness of memories. Genie Hien Tran talked about a gate at her childhood home in Vietnam, and the struggle to remember its exact form once she discovered there were no existing photographs of it. She consulted with relatives, and there was not a consensus. Throughout the show are different interpretations of the gate, creating a visual through-line for the exhibition.

and orange bordered collage featuring hands

Genie Hien Tran, “Am Phu”

The installation choices felt precise to the concept of memory. On large collaged works, various imagery comes together in what felt like moments of potential clarity, only to scatter again into smaller component parts. Floor-to-ceiling looser drawings of the gates live next to small reproductions of identification material or historic documents related to the American war in Vietnam.

person viewing an art exhibition with large and small drawings on the wall

Genie Hien Tran, large drawing: “Remembering”, small yellow gate image: “Untitled (merging)”

In the artist talk, there was also mention of the reproduction of various specific family photographs. In some works, those reproductions are worn and battered, then glued and taped over handmade paper, which is also made of various past imagery and documents. This layering of both materials and meaning invites close and slow looking as viewers search for clues to this narrative.

hands collaged over handmade paper

Genie Hien Tran, “Touch”

This work is deeply personal and lends itself to reflecting on one’s own family, memories, loss, and reconstruction. The artist’s keen eye for color, shape, and repetition keeps viewers engaged and looking for more.

a collage with 4 copies of a father and daughter

Genie Hien Tran, “Charteuse (to hold)”


Disclosure: I first me Genie Hien Tran from my time in the MCAD MFA program, and we have published a conversation together on Art Sprawl.

Reflecting on “Less is Enough” by Zoe Cinel at Second Shift Studio

This reflection is also available as a zine.

At the opening reception for Less is Enough by Zoe Cinel at Second Shift Studio, I spent some time reflecting on the following works. This exhibition is on view May 17-June 12, 2023 at 1128 Payne Ave, St Paul, MN 55106.

4 photos of dying flowers hanging on a wall

Zoe Cinel, “Nature Mora Series” (2022) Epson banner prints, 58×32″ each

Cinel asks viewers to slow down, look closely, and think deeply about “chronic illness, care, and softness from an individual and communal point of view” (via written material at exhibition). The photos above feature dying bouquets of flowers with various prescription medicine bottles wedged among the stems. The images piqued my curiosity with small clues as to who these belong to (Cinel) and what they might be for (some of the medicine names are visible), while leaving space for broad interpretations to illness generally.

detail of photo with dying flowers and medicine bottle

Zoe Cinel, “Natura Morta with Prednisone” (2022) Epson banner print, 58″x32″ [detail]

There’s a vulnerability in sharing this often hidden information so publicly. Illness and disability are not well respected in American society, despite the fact that all people move in and out of disability throughout their lives. Sharing and uplifting discussion of this topic helps de-stigmatize people living with all sorts of illnesses and disabilities. The scale and detail of theĀ Natura Morta photographs draws in viewers for that closer consideration.

detail photos of stuffed brown corduroy hands and cyanotype handwriting on a patch

Zoe Cinel, “Rest with Me” (2023) repurposed hospital mattresses, donated fabric and pillow stuffing, cyanotype prints; variable dimensions

Another piece that drew me in for deeper contemplation (so far in that I neglected to get a full shot of the installation!) was Rest with Me (details pictured here). These stuffed supports reminded me of a cross between a bean-bag chair and a body pillow with arms, which truly does invite softness, lounging, and reflection. The arms are covered in cyanotype patches with written reflections from past discussions on care. The position and placement of this installation invites full-body participation and rest.

two people holding heating pads with corduroy hands attached

Zoe Cinel, “Heating Pads” (2022-23) repurposed clothes, rice; dimensions variable

Nearby is Heating Pads, which is strategically placed near a shelf of books for participants to peruse. These heating pads repeat the soft hand forms from Rest with Me and are pictured here. The materials hold sentimental significance to Cinel, but also are an excellent textural choice due to the soft linear details of the corduroy, which invite touching.

an orange lit installation featuring a video screen

Zoe Cinel, “Self-portrait with Flare” (2023), monitor, video, tulle fabric, pillow stuffing, plastic, yarn, velvet, glitter glue, two mannequin arms, chain; dimensions variable

There was an additional video installation, Self-portrait with Flare, which featured a video screen, florescent lights, and sculptural elements. To me, the full transformation of the space of this installation, so different from the rest of the gallery, echoed the moment Cinel found out she was diagnosed with RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis). The shock of color, the towering structure, and the imagery on screen all stops the viewer in their tracks.

Overall, I was struck by the care and vulnerability of this exhibition, and welcomed the invitation to rest, reflect, and pace myself.

Disclosure: I know Zoe Cinel both as an alum of the MCAD MFA program, and as a participant in her “Conversations About Care” discussion group in November 2022.


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