Here, we ask designers to take a selfie and give us an inside look at their life.
Occupation: Artist and sculptor.
Hometown: San Jose, CA.
Studio location: Oakland, CA.
Describe what you make: I make sensuous biomorphic sculptures (primarily ceramic) that exist somewhere between the abstract and figurative. I strive to give form to emotions, thoughts, and relationships that we experience universally. During my recent residency at Local Language in Oakland, I’ve expanded to making 2D works and freestanding interlocking sculptures in wood while attempting to inject the same emotional resonance in them as my ceramic sculptures.
The most important thing you’ve designed to date: I’ve just started on this journey as a full-time artist so I’d hesitate to name the most important thing I’ve created. One piece that stands out personally to me was a sculpture titled Kyoto, a vaguely abstracted torii gate. It was inspired by my travels to Japan and the feeling of acceptance, comfort, and familiarity I felt as an Asian American traveling in an Asian country for the first time since leaving my country of birth, Vietnam. I’ll never take for granted how elated my collector was when he picked up Kyoto from my studio. It’s such an honor to be able to inspire such enthusiasm and love with my work.
However, I like to think that the best thing that I’ll create is the next piece of work. This encourages me to keep moving instead of obsessing and second guessing for too long.
Describe the problem your work solves: My work gives me space to examine and process my own emotions. I like to think of my practice as an archaeological dive into the caverns of my soul and being. It helps me shed light on what is the most real and authentic to me at that moment. I hope my work allows people to excavate their own thoughts and emotions and see how universally connected we all are.
In a way, I think the beauty I try to instill in my work serves a spiritual function. Our current cultural climate can be divisive, demanding, and alienating, especially for people of color. As a woman of color and an immigrant, I strive to give form and beauty to the human soul and to remind us of our shared humanity and inner child. Although my art is not overtly political or intellectual, my language is emotions. Love, joy, sorrow and resilience are universal emotions and if I can evoke these emotions through my abstract forms, I think maybe I can help people feel more connected.
Describe the project you are working on now: I have recently completed a residency at Local Language, an Art, Design, and Fabrication studio in Oakland, CA which culminates in a solo exhibition. BLOOM (Sept. 11–Oct. 30) is an exploration of human transformation and growth; a reminder of how we are all continually growing even when we don’t feel like we are blooming. The concept for this show grew out of my recent decision to quit my financially secure tech job as a software engineer in January 2021 to become a full-time artist. It’s the second time that I’ve drastically changed my career to break into male-dominated fields that lack BIPOC representation. I believe this will be a very relatable theme for many people who may be grappling with the same desire and fear of changing their lives. While the body of work in this show is extremely personal, they convey universal struggles and emotions.
I created a collection of sensuous biomorphic ceramic sculptures that attempt to convey all of the emotions that I felt throughout my most recent transformation: stagnancy, fear, discomfort, alignment, and extreme fulfillment. I also explored new materials and ways of working. I translated my forms into 2D CNC cut wood relief assemblages and freestanding wood sculptures while attempting to inject the same emotional resonance in them. I wanted to create an emotional landscape of sculptures and 2D work that narrate the discomfort of growth, but also remind people of their own strength, and encourage them to keep striving for what they truly want despite self-doubt, invisible barriers, and glass ceilings.
A new or forthcoming project we should know about: I’m looking forward to resting after my exhibition, but I’m a workaholic and relax by making so we’ll see what that really looks like! However, I have 3D scans of my work ready and I’m manifesting opportunities to translate my sculptures into bronze and marble. I would love an opportunity to do a monumental public art commission so that my work may be accessible to more people. I’m also itching to do a body of work inspired by Cycladic art or that incorporates neon.
What you absolutely must have in your studio: I thrive when my studio is quiet and organized. I actually prefer working in absolute silence because I like to be completely absorbed in my thoughts, emotions and the sculpture I’m working on. Noise and even visual stimuli can be very distracting when I’m working. Snacks are also a necessity. What I don’t have but must absolutely have in the future is natural light in my studio.
What you do when you’re not working: Artists are always working. Anything can be an inspiration. When I am purposely trying to decompress, I like to indulge in makeup tutorials on YouTube, take care of my skin, and hang out with my husband and cats. Pre-COVID-19, I would frequent amusement parks to access that sense of childlike wonder and joy, travel internationally a few times a year to explore new cultures, broaden my perspective, and look at a lot of art.
Sources of creative envy: Henry Moore, Jean Arp, Antoine Poncet and Helaine Blumenfeld.
The distraction you want to eliminate: Self-doubt, fear of failing, and negative energy.
Concrete or marble? I appreciate both materials so it would depend on the application and intended setting. I would love to see my forms translated into both concrete and marble.
High-rise or townhouse? High rise with generous floor to ceiling windows and gorgeous North facing light.
Remember or forget? I always try to remember everything, at least the essence of how I felt in any moment, in front of any artwork, in any new place. It’s easy to forget the details but I never want to forget the feeling.
Aliens or ghosts? I believe in both, but I enjoy kitties much more. Ghost kitties?!
Dark or light? One must experience light and dark to have perspective, empathy and appreciate the ebb and flow of life more deeply. In terms of environment, I will always prefer more natural light. My deepest desire is to have a studio with lots of windows and skylights.