MAI-HÂN TU’O’NG NGUYÊÑ

Printmaking
@nah_iam






Bàn Người Lớn, 2021. Multiple-block woodcut. 59.5 × 38 in.
The Drinking Table, 2021. Lithograph. 9.5 × 16 in.

This body of work is a visual documentation of my efforts to reconcile my American identity with memories of my traditional Vietnamese upbringing in a low-income immigrant household. Growing up as Vietnamese-American, I felt detached from the identifiers attached to my name since labels are abstract and intangible. Verbal attempts to convey my frustrations felt imbalanced because I am more proficient in English than in Vietnamese; however, as images, the components of my identity are equal. I decided to view my identity as a collection of image-making tools to make tangible my abstract anxieties.

The physicality of printmaking and the print matrix allow me to pull together cross-cultural motifs and visual marks; my multi-block woodcut Bàn Người Lớn (The Adult Table) encourages the merging process to occur through carving and collaging. Originally, the figures in both the photo and the print were nameless; however, as I superimposed my memories onto the image, I recognized my uncles’ faces in the forms of the unfamiliar figures.

I remember graduating to the adult table in my first year of college and understanding only a fraction of their conversation; in prioritizing higher education, I had lost my proficiency in Vietnamese. On the surface of a print, I give equal value to the parts of my identity in which I have pride and those in which I have shame; the richness of my family history and my clumsy Vietnamese handwriting become compositional tools. By turning my identifiers into visual motifs and marks, I can confront and mend the separation between my Vietnamese and American heritages. These works are my efforts to document a greater awareness of identity and a confrontation of the judgments I held against myself.