Artist: Tiffany Le
Media: Canvas, Water color paintings, Paper
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Dutzi Gallery
About the Artist
The artist, Tiffany Le, is a Master’s student pursing a degree in Fine Arts here at Cal State Long Beach. She is currently set to graduate in May. Tiffany was born and raised in the United States, unlike many of her family members. She explained that while growing up she constantly heard her parents explain how difficult their lives were back in Vietnam, but they never told their stories. Intrigued with what they had been through, she slowly coaxed stories out of them that explain their experience. She is very interested in the story of the refugee and likes the idea of exploring their stories.
Le’s art is mostly watercolor paintings, which often portray a tumultuous sea and boats. Much of her work is made up of dark colors but beautiful swirling lines, in order to mimic the ocean. Although her pieces are dark, they tend to draw in the audience because of the effortless strokes. Most of her pieces, also take the typical images of the sea or boats and add humans to its make up. The main piece, in the center of the room, is a sculpture of beautiful paper boats with LED lights in them. Each boat is delicate and simple, and typically white. The large boat in the middle sits on canvas, that is supposed to mimic the sea. Within the sea there are women drawn within the waves, they seem to become the waves. The drawings of these women are very simplistic yet intriguing and beautiful. Again these drawings lack vibrant colors but are still very intriguing.
Tàu means boat in Vietnamese, and this theme is constantly seen throughout the exhibition. Tiffany Le’s exhibition is inspired by the stories told to her from her parents. Her parents both lived in Vietnam, after the war during the 1970’s. Tiffany explained that she never knew much about the Vietnam War, because, growing up in America, Americans believe it to be a shameful war and try to hide it. She explained that when the war was over life for people in Vietnam got worse. Millions tried to escape and her parents were lucky enough to make it out alive with the third wave of Vietnamese refugees. Many escaped on boats that were crowded and often many were lost at sea. She explained that their struggles fueled her to create her art. She explains that many of the Vietnamese American refugees are not able to tell their stories and are often forgotten “boat people”. She relates these stories to individual lost ships in unpredictable waters, that are fortunate to escape. These boats also represent change, decisions, and moments that shape her generation’s identity. She explains that, “documenting and interpreting the narratives of my family into visual metaphors are my attempts to reconcile my experiences as an offspring of refugees. At the same time, I am able to share the perspectives of the older generation to show that they are not singular experiences, nor are they simple stories”.
Synthesis / My Experience
I truly enjoyed this art exhibit and getting to know more about the artist Tiffany Le. Her story of how she was inspired by events in her family members lives, was truly interesting. I really like history and my favorite time to study is the Vietnam War. It was and still is such a hot topic in America and it forever changed people’s views on war. It was interesting to hear how Tiffany’s family had to deal with the aftermath of the war. So often we only hear about what happened here after the war and not what happened to the people we were fighting for. Her example truly shows how America wasn’t just fighting for resources or to stop communism, but for people. People who were being oppressed. People who would swim out to boats and cram into boats just to escape. Her exhibit really put a face to those who were forgotten due to politics. Tiffany Le’s exhibit also is current because it relates to the struggles felt by Syrian refugees. They too are leaving their homeland not because they want to but due to oppression. The Syrian refugees are being treated similarly to how the Vietnam refugees where back in the 1970’s.