Summer Studios 2014: Trinh Nguyen

Interview by PRH intern Noemi Giron

Photos by Phillip Pyle II

How did the spirit of the Blue Triangle community serve as inspiration to your installation?

The reason I chose Blue Triangle Community as my inspiration was because one of my friends introduced me to Ms. Bryant, who works as a lead of Blue Triangle Community, and she asked me to volunteer for them. At first, I was looking for inspiration related to Third Ward. I was clueless about the area and didn’t truly understand the rich history that Third Ward has. That’s when my friend talked to me about Blue Triangle and their mission for the community. I was blown away when I talked to Ms. Bryant and learned that the people on staff were volunteers. I really admired the fact that Blue Triangle wanted to provide a safe, healthy, and educational environment not just for children, but for all citizens of Third Ward who are in need of help. Then, I decided to volunteer as their art teacher for their summer camp. I really enjoyed my time working with Blue Triangle, and I wanted to dedicate my installation at PRH to everyone there.

Has there been any memorable feedback you have received from the viewers about your installation?

Before the opening, I was extremely nervous about how viewers would react to my installation because I made some changes to my original proposal for the installation itself. But during the opening, I was amazed and surprised at how everyone was really curious and impressed with the visual effect that the installation gave them. I remember someone asked me if it was easy to make the lanterns because she wanted to do the same thing for her children. I thought that was really sweet of her. Also, a few people were very curious about how I installed the LED lights inside, and some of them actually tried to open the lanterns up to find out. And, the most memorable feedback I had was from a Vietnamese boy, who was the first person that walked in the installation. He told me that he felt familiar with the concept of a lantern night because he’s familiar with the tradition, but he never saw the lanterns with the shape that I created. I was very happy with his reaction, how he understood the tradition and felt that from the installation, but also interested about my own artistic twist on making the lanterns. The whole experience was definitely surprising to me personally.

Is there a specific reason for the color choices while making these lanterns?

Yes, there was definitely a specific reason for the color choice. Half of the lanterns were orange with designs of different red patterns on it. The inspiration for that color was based on my childhood memory. As a little girl walking around the lantern festival in Hoi An, I remember the main color for the festival was red with an orange shade from the street lights and the reflection of the lights inside each lantern. I wanted half of my lanterns to serve as a respect to my own childhood memory; that’s why I chose orange paper and red patterns for half of them. For the other half of the lanterns, they were made out of multiple different colors. Those multi-colored lanterns capture the spirit of Blue Triangle. On each multi-colored lantern, there are little drawings from my students at Blue Triangle. The project I gave them for those drawings was for them to draw two circles using their favorite color with an explanation of why that color was their favorite. The project was for the children to express their own personal creativity through their own interests. So, all the multi-colored lanterns are made out of colors that coordinate with the colors of the children’s drawings.

Did you try out new methods/materials at first?

I always knew creating a lantern night for my installation was what I wanted to go for. At first, I planned to order silk lanterns from Vietnam online because silk lanterns are the ones from Vietnamese lantern festivals. But, I felt disrespectful to my own community and tradition if I let the children to draw on those delicate hand-made silk lanterns. That’s when I decided to make my own with paper. Yes, it increased the work I had to do for the installation. But, that hard-working labor was also the reason I was able to connect more to my installation on a personal level.