Alumnus Minh Hoàng exhibits “A Quest for Empathy”

On Friday, Jan. 28 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., the Clayton Center for the Arts hosted an art reception of alumnus Minh Hoàng’s exhibition “A Quest for Empathy” in the Blackberry Farm Gallery. Admission was free, and refreshments were provided to all attendees. 

“A Quest for Empathy” was composed of seven exhibition pieces across multiple collections from Hoàng’s time at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Explanations of the inspiration and intent behind each piece were hung on the walls. 

“Every piece comes from a story of my life,” said Hoàng in his artist’s statement. “And with these stories, I examined the graphic design process as a development of empathy through a three-part journey of: ‘within me’ conversations—raising self-awareness through the biological act of making… ‘between us’ conversations—an active cultivation of trust… [and] ‘beyond us’ conversations—the freedom of empathy.”

The “within me” category included two woodwork pieces made in tribute to Hoàng’s Vietnamese heritage: the “Bát Quái” (octagonal mirrors), a recreation of a tool used by Vietnamese shamans, and the “Trieu Dai,” a night lamp whose design takes inspiration from various traditional forms of Vietnamese artistry. Both woodwork pieces spoke to the beauty of traditional Vietnamese craftsmanship and the dismal loneliness Hoàng described in trying to rediscover his lost heritage. 

Titled Trieu Dai, this woodwork night-lamp incorporates design elements from traditional Vietnamese artistry and folklore. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Raney.
From the exhibit Call Me by Your Name, this 3D apartment model emphasizes the unique wallpaper and wrought-iron fencing common to architecture in Savannah, GA and ties it back to the disparate main characters of the eponymous book artist Minh Huang drew inspiration from. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Raney.

“Call Me by Your Name,” inspired by the 2007 novel of the same name which Hoàng describes on his website as “a typographic experiment that explores the manifestations of a dual dialogue through historic wallpapers and ornaments,” completed the first section. Two pieces also comprised this section: a collapsible set of 3D apartments with the titular phrase engraved on a separate, but shared, balcony, and a selection of close-ups of the wallpapers within the apartments. The Savannahian apartment recreation illustrated the reciprocal nature of art and reality through medium communication.

The second category, “between us,” included two pieces: “A Ticket to Heaven” and “Camp Night.” The former, a data visualization of the Christian Bible in relation to the AIDs epidemic, paired well with the latter, an LGBTQIA medal of honor recreation, “for those who suffered… the propaganda of conversion camps,” a memorial in satire which exemplified the process of inward thought to interpersonal action.

A Ticket to Heaven imagines the contemporary Christian Bible as housing an AIDs and/or homosexuality vaccine that one might call any priest for. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Raney.
 An LGBTQIA+ memorial piece satirizing the U.S military and propaganda machines that both directly and indirectly led to the deaths represented here. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Raney.

“Beyond us,” the final category, included “Lost in Translation” and “In My Gut.” “Lost in Translation,” a Vietnamese inspired rug placed at the entry of the gallery, was the least marketed of Hoàng’s displayed works. Hoàng’s website describes it as “a project about an endless war and an unfinished reunification” that is “to be updated.” “In My Gut” was a traditional Vietnamese incense box gated behind a geometric “Van” pattern. Rounding out “A Quest for Empathy,” these two pieces showed a sense of self within the artistic forms Hoàng has shown himself adept to. 

Minh Hoàng ‘16 graduated from Maryville College with a major in Design and a minor in Business Management. In March of last year, he completed graduate work at SCAD and received a Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design and Visual Experience. He is currently working in both freelance and salaried positions. When asked about his future plans, Hoàng said he wants to continue exploring ways to “capture the 2D essence… the feeling in a 3D medium without losing any essential themes.” 

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