Last week was the official launch of our latest project, “Drawing On The Past”. I’ve produced a special bag with my friends at Herschel Supply and we’re releasing it as part of an art project open to anyone. I would love it if you joined in on the fun; full instructions HERE.
I asked a few people to help me get things started. This gorgeous drawing above is a submission to our project by one of my favourite artists, Tran Nguyen. Enjoy a short interview with her below!
Interview with Tran Nguyen
Jeff Hamada: Maybe you could start off by describing where you are as you answer these questions! I’m sitting in my apartment here in Vancouver, listening to Brad Mehldau’s piano cover of Radiohead’s “Exit Music” and the sun is just starting to go down.
Tran Nguyen: I’m relaxing in my studio here in Atlanta, enjoying a nice cup of Yogi green tea and listening to those insanely addictive songs from Disney’s Frozen.
JH: If you wrote your own Disney movie what would the plot be?
TN: The story would revolve around two tiny nymphs, a brother and a sister, who inhabits a floating island the size of human hand. The island is actually a flowering plant in a pot, cared for by a little boy. The boy planted the magical seed and watered the sprouting island for many weeks, but one day, as the house cat scuttled by the window, he accidentally knocks over the plant pot tossing the brother from the island, out the window and into the backyard. The plot will focus on the sister’s journey to find her lost little brother in an unknown world of singing songbirds, sinister garden snakes, and unexpected, unyielding courage.
JH: That sounds amazing! Maybe someone from Disney will read this and hire you. I read that you were born in Vietnam, but raised in Georgia, could you get good Vietnamese food there? When I went to Vietnam recently I was surprised by how much variety there is food-wise; so much more than just pho.
TN: Honestly, if I’m in the mood for Vietnamese food, I make a trip to my parent’s kitchen. They make the most scrumptious and tantalizing dishes I’ve ever consumed. Elsewhere, I’d recommend the small restaurants located on Buford Highway, Atlanta. I think dishes other than pho are a bit too exotic for American tongues and can be an acquired taste. If you’re an adventurous eater, I’d recommend ca kho to. I love, love seafood.
JH: Was art school a good experience for you? I know for some people it isn’t.
TN: Personally, I grew exponentially when I attended SCAD. My family and I didn’t have much growing up so I felt immensely fortunate to attend a private art college. I do have a few friends that felt a bit of resentment when they graduated, but I believe your education is what you make of it.
JH: I read in a couple other interviews that your parents lived their whole lives with very little, I’d imagine that would be a good reminder that making art for a living is a luxury. Do you ever feel extra pressure to make something of yourself as an artist because of your upbringing?
TN: Absolutely. I’ve seen the hardship my family’s endured so I could never take my privileges for granted. Because of my upbringing, it’s motivated me to find a way to help people with imagery, live to my potential, and persevere over all obstacles that may come. I would never want to disappoint my family. They’ve sacrificed too much to bring me to the States, and cared enough to send me to an extremely expensive college, for it to be thrown away.
JH: What are some of the things influencing your work these days?
TN: These days, I’ve been heavily inspired by haute couture. I’m extremely fascinated with manipulating and constructing fabric to create abstract form, which is a subject matter I’ve been visiting recently; particularly pleated textures. As always, my concepts are focused on therapeutic imagery.
JH: I don’t find a lot of work by Vietnamese artists (at least not as much as I’d like), do you know a secret website where can I find more work by artists from Southeast Asia? If there isn’t one, there should be.
TN: Unfortunately, there aren’t many Vietnamese artists. I only know a handful and I think it’s because art isn’t respected as much as it is in the U.S., plus the market barely exists in countries like Vietnam. I hear it’s gotten better these past few years so I’m hoping for a plethora of artists from Southeast Asia in the near future.
JH: I like to end interviews by hearing about an artist’s personal goals. Could you share something you’d like to accomplish this year, and then something you’d like to accomplish in your life time?
TN: By the end of this year, I’d like to take my dad back to his hometown in Vietnam. He’s worked his whole life and has missed out on a lot. After working 70+ hours a week for 24 years, he deserves a long vacation. On my deathbed, what will matter most is whether I can confidently say that I’ve lived a honest life I can be proud of — something I’ve been working towards since high school.
JH: Your drawing is incredible, thanks for being a part of the project.
TN: Thanks so much, Jeff.
Tran Nguyen’s Website
Tran Nguyen on Instagram
If you would like to participate in the “Drawing On The Past” project it’s open to anyone and we’d love to have you. Full project instructions HERE.
We are releasing our very limited edition Herschel Supply and Booooooom bag to the public on July 7th at 9am. It will be for sale online HERE.