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Phung Huynh - Artists - Luis De Jesus Los Angeles

Phung Huynh is a Los Angeles-based artist and educator whose practice is in drawing, painting, public art, and community engagement. Her work investigates notions of cultural identity from a kaleidoscopic perspective, a continual shift of idiosyncratic translations. The contemporary American landscape is where she explores how cultural ideas are imported, disassembled, and then reconstructed. Her reflections and research have guided Huynh to re-stitch traditional Asian iconography within the loosely woven fabric of American popular culture to call attention to (mis)interpretations and (re)appropriations. Huynh considers how cultural authenticity disintegrates within a capitalist framework to challenge the viewer with a western-leaning perspective.

In a series of oil paintings titled Pretty Hurts (2015-2017) Huynh probes questions of cultural perception and cultural authenticity through images of the Asian female body vis-à-vis plastic surgery. She references Chinese feet-binding as one of the earliest forms of cosmetic surgery to contrast the antiquated canon of Asian feminine beauty (small feet, small eyes, a broad forehead, and small breasts) with the current trends of body image influenced by western canons that call for larger eyes, a delicate forehead, a taller nose, and larger breasts. Huynh is interested in how contemporary plastic surgery on Asian women have obscured ethnic and racial identity, and has also amplified the exoticism and Orientalist eroticism of Asian women.

A more recent series, titled The Pink Donut Box (2019-2022), is informed by her experience as a refugee of Cambodian and Chinese descent from Vietnam. Inspired by her family’s migration story, personal research, and interviews with Cambodian and Vietnamese refugees and immigrants, Huynh makes drawings and prints on pink donut boxes and cross-stitches images of personalized California license plates with unanglicized names. Her work unpacks the complexities of diaspora, immigration, displacement, and assimilation. Each drawing or cross-stitched piece is meant to be a sensitive portrayal of a unique personal story. Close to 90% of California’s donut shops are mom-and-pop businesses run by Cambodian immigrants or Cambodian Americans (Khmericans). The trend that links pink boxes with donuts can be traced back to the Khmerican donut ecosystem.

With a strong commitment to community engagement and social practice, Huynh has completed significant public art projects throughout Los Angeles County. Her most important public art project to date is Sobrevivir, which was unveiled and dedicated on July 11, 2022 at the Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center. A large-scale Corten steel floor sculpture, Sobrevivir (Spanish to "survive" and to “exist") recognizes the women and events surrounding the practice of coerced sterilization at the LAC + USC Medical Center in the 1960s and 70s. Over 200 women who delivered babies at the hospital, the majority of them immigrants born in Mexico with little income or knowledge of the English language, underwent sterilization procedures without their knowledge or consent. Situated within a circular area in the plaza between the historic and new Medical Center buildings, Huynh's memorial conveys LA County's acknowledgment of the irreparable harm inflicted upon the women who were subjected to these coerced sterilizations, and their families. In her dedication, she offered her artwork as a site of contemplation, healing, and renewal. 

Ultimately, Huynh’s work is rooted in the practice to unravel ideas of cultural representations and stereotypes, to challenge how we consume and interpret ethnographic signifiers, and to de-center whiteness in constructing visual and historical narratives.

Phung Huynh completed undergraduate coursework at the University of Southern California, received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with distinction from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, and her Master of Fine Arts degree from New York University. She is Professor of Art at Los Angeles Valley College where her focus is on serving disproportionately impacted students. She has served as Chair of the Public Art Commission for the city of South Pasadena and Chair of the Prison Arts Collective Advisory Council, which supports arts programming in California state prisons. She is currently on the Board of Directors for LA Más, a non-profit organization that serves BIPOC working class immigrant communities in Northeast Los Angeles.

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