Marvelous Metaphors: Vietnamese American Art in Orange County

Here’s an announcement about a terrific art show on display in Orange County, California, at the Vietnamese American Arts and Letters Association’s gallery. If you’re in the area, check it out! On to November 5th.

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Marvelous Metaphors Invites Audience’s Interpretations

By Cara Le

Picture a table lamp in your head. What sort of words come to mind? Home décor, light, luminescence, perhaps even the Enlightenment… Our minds are constantly filing concepts, sorting them by context and content. In the technological world, databases are created using this approach; it’s called metadata. In poetry, tangible objects are used to relate to the intangible; this is called a metaphor. Thuy N. D. Tran, the guest curator for Vietnamese American Arts and Letters Association’s (VAALA) upcoming art exhibit, Marvelous Metaphors: Art as Visual Poetry, was fixated on these ideas when she was asked to curate VAALA’s next art exhibition for their new space.

“In art we have similar visual cues that are referencing points, and […] the audience brings their own reference points with them,” Tran explains.

This, she continues, is the beauty of contemporary art—a form so new, complex and diverse that people often feel lost when approaching contemporary artwork. This exhibition, which showcases the art of six Vietnamese American artists, welcomes the viewer to reflect on the pieces presented and interpret the messages behind them. The viewer, then, becomes part of the art-making process. This concept is conveyed quite literally in Van Tran’s five reflection booklets, handmade especially for the show. Viewers are invited to fill the booklets with their thoughts on the exhibition, the pieces in on display, or better yet, to contribute with their own poetry, drawings and writings. It’s a sort of meta-art.

The collection of artworks were chosen for their diversity of forms: Christine Nguyen’s chemical photo prints, Trinh Ponce’s fiber art sculptures, Trinh Mai’s mixed media projects, and Dao Strom’s music and writings, Van Tran’s tile works, just to name a few. Choosing artists who work in different media was important to Tran—doing so  offers the audience a chance to participate and translate with new eyes and new approaches.

Christine Nguyen

Through this exhibit, the relationship between viewer and artist is blurred. No longer is art a one-sided process with a definite end, but rather a constant evolution of concepts and translations. As in poetry, audience interpretation is key—and half the fun. “It’s really up to you,” she concludes. “Just as you enjoy poetry, you can enjoy art in the same manner.” No one’s interpretation is correct or definitive. Thus, the most important perspective is your own.

Trinh Mai

Marvelous Metaphors: Art as Visual Poetry runs until November 5th at the VAALA Cultural Center, 1600 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, California. Gallery hours: Saturday and Sunday, 12:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m., and by appointment. Admission is free.  For artists’ biographies, please visit and click on Current Exhibition.

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