Saturday, October 31, 2009

An interview with Dan Tran

I just set the windows today...2 paintings by local artist Dan Tran. His work really caught my eye when I was jurying Leap of Faith. I was mesmerized by how he uses color and by the mix of image and metaphor. Zach interviewed him this week:

When did you first become interested in the arts?

In high school, I loved drawing classes. In college, I took one class of painting but got bored. Then I took a detour in life through manual labor, farming, engineering and business – you name it. Now I’m back, as clueless as I was 30 years ago.

As a self-taught artist, what was this process like? What resources were available to you and with what other mediums have you experimented?

Challenging. First, very quickly, I knew I did not want to paint just for the soothing of the heart, but for unleashing the passion of the mind, which put me squarely in the midst of contemporary art. Second, I must navigate the sea of contemporary art and sort out for myself the authentic and the frivolous, the endless hope and the dead end.

I went to museums, attended artists’ talks, devoured art magazines, visited artists’ web sites to get a feel of where art is. I made friends with artists, art critics, gallery owners, many of whom advised me on techniques, critiqued my ideas, and gave me shows. Besides acrylic, I am experimenting with mixed-media in my next series, and want to explore installations.

Who would you say are your inspirations in contemporary art in America? In contemporary art in Vietnam?

From American art, Pollock, DeKooning, Warhohl, Basquiat as bold experimentalists. In some aspects, conceptual art. Vietnam has barely entered the house of contemporary art, with some promising young artists. Other countries in Southeast Asia are more advanced in that respect.

How do you feel that art can be vital to religion and/or spirituality? What interests you most about spirituality as a subject matter?

If art can make a landscape or still life or a concept become alive, then it can definitely awaken spirituality. Whereas religion relies on dogma, rituals to regiment spirituality, art relies on the creative mind to unleash spirituality.

Many of your pieces use characters, allegories, and icons from Christianity as well as Eastern religions. Can you talk about some of these characters and what their juxtaposition represents to you? Why do you choose to make them faceless?

The intent of juxtaposing otherwise irreconcilable realities is to dissolve the world of appearances, fraught with illusions and schisms, and reveal the essence of spirituality, which may be faceless and unifying. Besides characters from religion, I use many from myths and legends of both East and West as long as they allow me, with a simple twist, to make commentaries about life, about the individual, at this very moment.

How do you feel the process of immigration had an affect on your artwork as a whole? your stylistic choice and/or your choice of subject matter?

In this world of mass communication, cultural borders should be vanishing. It is not, for the simple reason that the weak will not allow the strong to swallow them up in the process of globalization. At one point in time, contemporary art strived to become universal, erasing the barriers of ethnicity. Later on, it became clear that universality was dictated from New York, and the world rebelled against it. So the Mexican, the Chinese, the Indian, while appropriating Western techniques, returned to their ethnicities. I use ethnic vocabulary in my work, only because that is what I know best, as a person learning to speak a new language, but I hope my ideas have universal validity, and, as my style matures, my ethnicity should recede into the background. As an immigrant, I must fight the label of “American painter” or “Vietnamese painter”, and hope to be known only as a true artist.

Would you say your artwork is the result of a conscious blending of Vietnamese and American aesthetics, or is it a circumstantial byproduct of traveling and existing between the two countries?

It is a conscious blending of Vietnamese and American aesthetics, insofar as I set out to use whatever means – American pop art, street art, surrealism, Eastern and Western allegories, myths – to drive to a transcendent point: reality is not what it looks. Look deeper, search, experiment, travel – in the mind that is. Exist, not between two countries, but between multiple states of mind.

What do you see in your role as an artist in America versus your role as an artist in Vietnam? How is the Artist perceived in each country? What opportunities are present in one but not the other? What are the differences and the similarities as you've experienced them?

I believe the two roles are the same: as an artist, I hope to contribute to American and Vietnamese art something new, that has not been done before, that has roots in both, and that answers some deep human quest, much like jazz improvisation, born of the collision of two cultures. Comparing the two art milieus, I can only say that American artists have the means and the will to experiment, and they benefit from an infrastructure (curators, galleries, auction houses, grants) unequalled in the world. Vietnamese artists remain the art guerillas, fighting for survival, against much larger odds.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Leap of Faith Preview

This collage might give you an idea of what is to come! It is a broad show, points of view from all the cardinal directions! LEAP OF FAITH: give it a rest, artists consider sabbath and other things that might reflect faith! OPening Friday, November 6, 7-9pm at both Susan Hensel Gallery and ArtSpace at Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church at 1620 E. 46th St., Minneapolis.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A great night of poetry was had by all

October 15th, Lisa Calame Berg presented a wonderful roster of poets, STILL WALKING: the poetry of tenacity. Don't forget the potluck, October 30, 6-9.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Leap of Faith has been chosen

The artists have been chosen for Leap of Faith: give it a rest opening Nov 6,
at both
Susan Hensel Gallery and ArtSpace at Lake Nokomis Church (1620 E. 46th st).

Jacob Akerson

Terry Bebertz

Vincent Berg

Mary Bowman Cline

Cristina de Almeida

Roz Dimon

Sharon Farrah

Bill Haas

Robyn Hendrix (postcard image is hers!)

Charles Knutson

James Michael Lawrence

Sushmita Mazumdar

Sarah McCoy

Michel Pleau

Johanne Renbeck

Mary Rivard

Regula Russelle

Lisa Stegman

Beth Sullivan

Nicole Thompson

Dan Tran

Kate Van Cleve

Christine Waugh Fleischmann

Anita White

There will be painting, drawing, photography, digital prints, wood, handmade paper, artists books, sculpture, storytelling, banners.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Poetry! on Thursday!

Susan Hensel Gallery

Thursday, October 15th, 7-9 p.m.
Still Walking: The Poetry of Tenacity.
Hosted by Lisa Calame Berg

inspired by


See Take Another Step, Carlson's most recent body of work. He chronicles the women that he walked alongside during his experience completing the Twin Cities Breast Cancer 3 Day. Up beat, lushly painted. Then listen to poetry! You must experience this!

Don't forget! The potluck comes next!
Friday, October 30, community potluck, 6-9pm

Susan Hensel Gallery
3441 Cedar Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55407

Sunday, October 4, 2009

TAKE ANOTHER STEP by Mark Edwin Carlson

Take Another Step opened Saturday with people from as far away as Denver in attendance. Pink champagne, pink cookies, pink MM's and women who embraced Mark and welcomed him into their Breast Cancer Three Day team of walkers. They were in attendance, many wearing pink, all wearing smiles and providing their ongoing support.

Three Minute Egg and Igloos

The video is now up at Three Minute Egg. This is a wonderful service to the arts community of the Twin Cities. Watch it! Support it! Make suggestions for it! Watch the September 28th edition to see an interview with Andrea Miller and a small glimpse of her performance.