LA-based artist Phong Huynh highlights the effects of Western beauty standards on the Asian American community with ‘Pretty Hurts’

Winford Hunter
Phung Huynh, a Los Angeles-dependent artist and educator who has exhibited her will work internationally as properly as finishing general public artwork commissions throughout Los Angeles County, came to Scripps Higher education to share her story. (Courtesy: Carter Soe)

Absolutely everyone has a story to share. Phong Huynh, a Los Angeles-primarily based artist and educator who has exhibited her is effective internationally as perfectly as finishing public art commissions across Los Angeles County, arrived to Scripps University to share hers. 

Huynh reflected on how her expertise as a Southeast Asian refugee of Cambodian, Vietnamese and Chinese ancestry coalesces with western attractiveness standards, whitewashing her cultural and racial identification. On Feb. 2 at the Humanities Auditorium at Scripps, Huynh shown her intriguing artwork that deeply informs her Asian American id as properly as the experiences she faced as an immigrant in the United States.

Soon after migrating to the United States from Vietnam at the age of 8, Huynh was surrounded by multicultural methods and languages escalating up. Her various track record influenced her artwork as she attended ArtCenter Faculty of Style in Pasadena and ongoing her studies at New York College. From there, she has served as Chair of the Public Art Fee for the city of South Pasadena, as nicely as currently being a recipient of the Town of Los Angeles Unique Artist Fellowship. Her artwork is at this time represented by the Luis De Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles.

“White is right, white is very,’’ is what Huynh was told escalating up. This notion of Asian women conforming to Western magnificence benchmarks these as pale pores and skin and double eyelids is what sparked her artwork collection, “Pretty Hurts.” 

When exhibiting her artwork piece titled “Nose-Sharpener” from a projector for the audience to see, Huynh described its inspiration.

I am fascinated in how contemporary plastic operation on Asian ladies have not only obscured racial identity, but how it has also amplified the exoticism and Orientalist eroticism of Asian women,” she claimed. 

Huynh referenced a instrument referred to as the nose-sharpener, which was specially promoted to Asians to sharpen their nose bridges. Motivated by this item, Huynh painted a portrait of a girl with prominent Asian functions sitting down in a female placement, using tobacco a cigarette with just one hand while working with the other to sharpen her nose. Her smaller feet are bounded, a single of the earliest varieties of plastic medical procedures which contrasts with the Western beauty that the woman is hoping to attain.

Huynh needed to produce a selection in an “Asian style” artwork but display the grotesque course of action of what Asian women of all ages go by means of to enchantment to Western beauty expectations. 

Her other selection, “Donut (W)hole,” shares the tale of numerous Khmer young children who grew up in mom-and-pop donut stores across the United States. Dubbed the “Donut Young ones,” Huynh drew these very first and next era “Khmericans” as cartoon figures on pink silkscreen paper with genuine images of their donut store as a backdrop, producing a “before and after” layering result. The pink symbolizes the copious quantities of pink donut boxes that ended up marketed during their time at the shop. 

“Phung Huynh is a pretty notable artist, and I know that her get the job done is not only achieving throughout other communities in color but also empowering her have local community as perfectly. Art can really perpetuate this sort of dialogue. The sort in which individuals can communicate, cry and are moved by the expertise. That’s precisely what I want.”

“These donut outlets stand for a cultural room in which refugees and immigrants reshape their life in the course of action of negotiating, assimilating, and getting to be American,” Huynh claimed. The tales of becoming taken to the outlets at 3:00 a.m. and sleeping on best of flour luggage to coming back after college to do research are all widespread in these paintings. 

Kirby Lam PO ‘23 was a single of the several attendees who was touched by Huynh’s paintings. 

“It was a amazing representation of the strategies that their spouse and children track record, as affected by genocide, war and the American immigrant wrestle, formed their life as grown ups.” Lam said. “Like Phung, I’m also Southeast Asian with family that emigrated from Southern China via Cambodia and Vietnam. When I have not definitely negotiated my Khmer American identification far too a lot yet, it served me believe about how my everyday living has also been formed by this legacy of displacement and hope.”

Martha Gonzalez, professor of Chicanx-Latinx Scientific studies at Scripps College was 1 of the organizers for this occasion. As an artist herself whose emphasis is on audio by means of a social justice lens, Professor Gonzalez strives to carry other artists who also share a enthusiasm for raising minority representation in their fields and communities into this movement. 

“Phung Huynh is a really notable artist, and I know that her work is not only achieving across other communities in shade but also empowering her individual group as nicely,” states Gonzalez. “Art can genuinely perpetuate this form of dialogue. The sort in which folks can speak, cry and are moved by the knowledge. That is accurately what I want.” 

It is artists like Phung Huynh who share their tales that allow people today from different communities to occur alongside one another. To carry individuals from all unique backgrounds and speak about these encounters whilst inspiring those people to begin participating in art.

It is much more than just donuts and pink containers,” Huynh stated. “It is about becoming in a position to explain to our have stories just before they are told for us. It is about sharing our humanity when we are veiled by inhumanity.”

An before version of this post incorrectly spelled Phong Huynh as “Hyunh.” It has been updated to replicate the correct spelling. TSL regrets this error.

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