Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Tammy Nguyen turns heads at ICA

Isabella Tecchio
Artwork by Tammy Nguyen displayed at the Institute of Contemporary Art

Tammy Nguyen showcased her artwork in her first solo exhibit at the Institute of Contemporary Art, delving into literary puzzles and transcendentalist ideas.

Speaking to an ICA employee, Nguyen’s autobiography, “O,” published in 2022, was recommended to better understand her work. The autobiography explains Nguyen’s experience growing up in Vietnam and how this relates to her pieces.  The book covers other artistic and moral viewpoints and takes on her life, giving context to her work.

With every piece, Nguyen starts by covering a blank canvas with layers of green color, and incorporates hidden animals as well as other naturalistic ideas that the viewer can interpret. Evil eyes among other creatures and ideas can be seen by a viewer looking closely. 

In the center of Nguyen’s exhibit, which first opened Aug. 24, four large books are displayed, each theme as a different season.  Specifically, winter is shown to have quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay, “Nature,” and plays off the metaphor of reflection. 

Nguyen uses watercolor, vinyl paint and panels to complete her intricate work.

Each book has a collage look that takes from documents and propaganda from the U.S. National Archives, each circle back to land reformation agendas in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Bookcloth, xerox photocopy, vinyl stickers and other interesting materials were used to create this piece. Each season is also connected with a transcendentalist idea, such as Jesus being connected with spring, and Demeter, the ancient Greek goddess of harvest, being connected with fall. Constructed to resemble a common landscape used in many of her pieces, they combine image and text. 

These books truly feature Nguyen’s ideas about the exhibit as a whole; God being reflected in nature, and the understanding of the Vietnamese landscape being part of a U.S. involved land reform and nation-building ideal. This exhibit is different from any other ICA exhibits I have seen in the past.  Combining literature with her pieces brings out a different way of viewing art, reading certain excerpts explore different feelings than art without these aspects.

Emerson is featured in many of Nguyen’s works, his essay being of great importance in many of her pieces. In the painting, “Ralph Waldo Emerson,” a large portrait type, green wilderness surrounds the famous writer, and the small details are exciting to look for, each surrounding his face. Emerson’s well-known essay “Nature,” is seen in many of Nguyen’s pieces, outlining the ideas of the transcendentalism movement in the 1830s. 

Three Vietnamese Officials Study Land Reform” is a very large piece which was completed with four different sized panels, metal leaf, a thinner metal used with other creative materials such as wooden panels, while paper is extended over everything. Each piece starts off as a blank green canvas, then painted. Nguyen found three men’s passport photos in the National Archives, who were involved in land reform programs. Painting their faces over this large scale, Nguyen portrayed them in front of 19th-century American land, and then on top of this, a spreadsheet involving budgets from a land reform project found also in the archives. 

This exhibit will be on display until Jan. 28. These pieces are truly inspiring, her ideas about transcendentalism and nature are beautifully woven into each piece, intricately aligning every idea perfectly.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Suffolk Journal Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *