On September 9, 2016, I posted a photo of my work Hmong Clothes #1, khaub ncaw hmoob #1 onto my Facebook Artist page. In this image I was modeling Hmong clothes that I created with camouflage nylon and bullet shells while wearing black high heels and holding a toy gun. I originally wrote about my process in an earlier blog post which you can read about here. In my original post I did not include any context, instead wrote the title of the work, dimensions and mediums as one would do when labeling works of art. Also included in this post was a fragment stating “Maybe, I’ll wear it for the Hmong New Year”.
About six hours later, this post was shared over 50 times on to other people’s Facebook walls, forums, and other social media websites. It generated over 2,000 views on my artist Facebook Page. I made the decision to delete everything on my artist page however the photo was reposted five days later into a public Facebook page and forum called Kuv Yog Hmoob - I am Hmong. Kuv Yog Hmoob is a space where Hmong people from all over the world come together to share Hmong experiences. There are over 24,000 members and it is growing daily. A good majority of the posts and comments are written in Hmong and many active members speak freely based on their opinions, beliefs and experiences. A few friends recognized my photo and brought it to my attention. At this point the Facebook thread had already generated over 100 comments, 270 shares and 470 reactions. Read More
The Ananya Dance Theater (ADT) hosted an Audience Empowerment Workshop on August 22 at the Frey Theater in The O'Shaughnessy complex at St. Catherine University in St. Paul for the community to learn more about "Horidraa: Golden Healing," ADT's 2016 production. ADT dancers performed excerpts from "Horidraa" and after each performance, Ananya Chatterjea, founder, director, choreographer of ADT opened the floor up for reflection and discussion.
My mind is still processing what I experienced. I felt naive as I listened to people's reactions, thoughts, and comments regarding the four pieces performed. Naive in the sense that the movements were familiar. Have I been performing this? When was the last time I was seduced? When was the last time I tried to hide my imperfections? When was the last time I told someone to stop and think about what they were saying, consuming, and enforcing? I realized that on a daily basis these dances are performed. The dance I saw today was unpolished, raw and truthful. Below are a brief observation of the first and second performance. Read More
Hmong Scholars, historians, anthropologist, and Hmong elders have stated over and over again that Hmong textiles, clothing and paj ntaub have been traditionally passed down from grandmothers to mothers to daughters and so on. It's an oral and visual tradition that's learned through memorization and produced by the hands of Hmong women.
I revisited this "traditional" female process to ask the questions: "What if we took this tradition serious? What would Hmong women's clothing look like today if I continued to explore the concept of history, memory and spirituality recorded in the fabric and body? What if we thought serious about the materials that are on the finest traditional Hmong clothing and continued creating? What does it mean to wear The Clothes today? Read More
The Hmong people have been in America for a little over 40 years. Generally speaking, it's hard to find spaces where artists of the Hmong identity can reflect and have critical conversations about their working processes, especially if the works are influenced by their experiences, histories and cultures.
Today the internet and social media platforms are making it easier to seek out events that elaborate on contemporary issues in the arts. There's a lack of contemporary Hmong conversations about visual and performance art in my community. I've been throwing myself into other community spaces to explore how artist of color and indigenous identities mentor and engage in contemporary American issues. What does it look like to make art influenced by one's identity? Are there similar issues that artist of color and indigenous artist experience? Read More
Why pursue art? Why did you decide to walk down this path? The questions that I ask myself once in awhile. I am always reassessing myself and the work that bubbles out of me. I create in various state of minds. Sometimes I make in a trance when my imagination, thoughts and energy are at its highest, to a point where I have to release or live with being overwhelmed by emotions. Other times I slowly chip away at a thought and spend years to add one mark at a time. Read More