By Michael Solender
Juxtaposing fragile materials with strong messaging gives emotional punch to Charlotte multi-disciplinary artist MyLoan Dinh’s work.
“The most important thing about my work,” Dinh said, “is that it is authentic to me.”
Born in Saigon, Vietnam, she uses her art to reflect upon her experience as a former refugee and woman of color, to address themes relating to cultural identity, memory and displacement.
“My work is personal and must be reflective of my story,” said Dinh. “Otherwise, I know it won’t resonate with others. Whether it is about immigration, racism, or gender equality – subjects that are important to me – I look at broader themes and how others may be experiencing these, then make the connection between the two, between the personal and collective.”
Dinh likes to explore a variety of different mediums to express the story she looks to tell. She expresses herself through painting, movement, spoken word and a variety of other mediums. She is the founder of the award winning international multidisciplinary arts outreach and migration project, We See Heaven Upside Down.
Dinh has held residencies at Little Italy Peninsula Arts through the Bechtler Arts Foundation, McColl Center for Arts + Innovation and MoBe Center for the Arts in Berlin, Germany. She’s exhibited work at numerous venues throughout the Charlotte region, including The Mint Museum, Hart Witzen Gallery, Elder Gallery, Central Piedmont Community College’s Ross Gallery and C3 Lab.
Her work has shown internationally at Novilla Center for Arts in Berlin, Germany, Vin Gallery in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, 47/49 Tanner Street in London, England, and Stadtgalerie in Chur, Switzerland.
“Sometimes I work with an idea or message,” Dinh said. “Thinking about what message I want to convey, and the best way to convey it is, helps me decide what medium to use. Other times I’m simply exploring a medium and make discoveries how I may choose to use it.”
Her work tackles weighty, significant topics ranging from immigration and gender equality to gun violence and racism.
“My work can be serious,” Dinh said. “I like to play with how people will receive it. I find the way it is delivered impacts and lands at people’s acceptance of it. Sometimes my art is better delivered in a humorous or satirical way.”
An example is her use of fragile eggshells in creating mosaic applied onto curious substrates. A recent work, “Truth,” is an eggshell encrusted mosaic applied to a boxing speedball and is featured at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Ky. The work speaks to the fight for social justice with a vulnerability, fragility and resilience.
Dinh’s unusual choice of eggshells is inspired by her extensive exposure as a child to precious Vietnamese lacquerware, inlaid with the very same material.
“Growing up in a Vietnamese household,” said Dinh, “there was decorative lacquerware (created using the Vietnamese Son Mai technique) around all the time in my house. I spent a great deal of time as a child dusting and handling these decorative pieces.”
Dinh planned to use her 2020 ASC Creative Renewal Fellowship to travel to Vietnam and study Son Mai from local masters of the craft. While the trip was postponed due to the pandemic, she hopes it won’t be long before she can return to the land of her birth.
“Receiving this fellowship is an endorsement to me that it is OK to take risks,” she says. “I’m excited to continue on my journey.”