Artist: Tiffany Le
Media: Canvas, paper, ink, LED candle lights, watercolor, acrylic, charcoal
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Dutzi Gallery
About the Artist: Tiffany was born and raised in Garden Grove, California, and is currently studying for her MFA at CSULB. She has been doing art since she was three years old, when her mother noticed her copying illustrations from cereal boxes. In Tàu, Tiffany explores her family’s Vietnamese heritage, and how it influenced her life as someone born in the US.
Formal Analysis: Tàu utilizes many different forms of expression through both paintings and sculpture. The paintings, often depicting boats fused with animals or fictional creatures, are flowing and dream-like, illustrating a nighttime scene of departure from both a physical place and a spiritual setting. Deep reds, blues, and blacks convey a sense of urgency, danger, tranquility, and chaos. The mystical creatures guide the boats into the unknown, through soft watercolors and glowing lights of mystery. The water-like feeling that the paintings utilize give off feelings of peacefulness, yet at the same time the context in which they were made cause a feeling of possible menace. The sculpture in the middle of room depicts many small paper boats floating in a circle around a large paper boat, continuing the flowing, nautical themes displayed on the walls. The hues of blue are deeply calming, and the Southeast Asian influence can be seen in the style of the ebbing waters. The boats also contain small lights simulating flames, which can be attributed to the secrecy in which these boats navigated the waters at night.
Content Analysis: Tiffany Le was inspired to create Tàu after learning about many Vietnamese American refugee stories from both her own family and from others in her community. Tàu, which means “boat” in Vietnamese, is a constant theme in all of the art pieces in the exhibition, and was the primary means of escape for many people from the country following the war in 1975. Her parents and their generation, fleeing the new communist government, came to the US in droves, but many were interfered and either brought back or killed. The nighttime scenes and mysterious style the artworks incorporate illustrate the struggles the people had, and by doing the exhibition, Tiffany wanted to bring a lesser known topic of history to light. The artwork displays the fear, hope, and danger that leaving Vietnam caused for many people.
My Experience: I found Tàu to be very beautiful and noble in many different ways. The love and care put into the art shows not only a level of understanding for aesthetics but also an understanding of one’s own community, culture, and heritage. The flowing water that moved from one piece to the next made the entire exhibition come together very organically, and the themes of darkness, tranquility, and hope shone through the cracks like a candle behind a door. The imagery, both dream-like and surreal, evoked feelings of mourning and celebration. The gallery felt as though I were in a different place, a place where the souls of people leave and the spirits of others enter.