OUT OF THE MARGINS: Trinh Mai – Pt. 1 :: We Are Here

We delve further into the intersection of the visual and storytelling/narrative-making with our late-June post of two collage art series by Trinh Mai — “We Are Here” (Part 1) and “The Third Eye Series” (Part 2). We chose these two to showcase the way the artist contemplates both family/history and self, using highly personal artifacts alongside mixed-media materials and techniques. We love how she fuses together ethos, textures, geographies, and juxtapositions in each of these series.

Each series can be viewed below as a slideshow, with brief captions per photo (on rollover). For more detailed captions on these photos, please visit We Are Here and The Third Eye Series on the artist’s website.

Here is Part 1 of our Trinh Mai visual storytelling feature, “We Are Here.”

We Are Here, 2013, digital photography

The idea for this photographic essay stemmed from the title of my one of my shows, entitled “We Are Here”, whose meaning resonated with me on many different levels. One, is that “we have arrived” as individuals and/or as a people. Another meaning states that “we are present”, consciously living in this moment. And another meaning, a statement that might come from the perspective our ancestors, is that “we are (still) here”. Using some of my photography in conjunction with photos from our family archive, relics of the past find their way into contemporary environments.

Although their lives on earth have passed, the ancestors continue living presently through us. They live on through our language, through our stories, through our memories, through the preservation of traditions, through our characteristics, and through the legacies they have left behind. They are here.

~Trinh Mai


_Out of the Margins Trinh Mai is an interdisciplinary, California-based artist whose work is driven by innovative narratives of storytelling. Her artistic creations re-imagine personal memories, family roots, and spiritual connections that alter conceptions of our identities and shared histories. Since receiving her B.F.A. in Pictorial Art from San Jose State University and furthering her studies at UCLA, Trinh has exhibited nationally, as well as showing in public and private collections internationally. In addition to exhibiting her work with well-respected institutions such as the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and the Naples Museum of Art, her passion for intermixing arts and collaboration has inspired her community involvement. She has served as Project Director for the Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association (VAALA), Master Teaching Artist for the Bowers Museum, Course Developer for the Pacific Symphony, and Curator at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts.

Currently, Trinh is a member of the Artist Advisory Board for The Artist Odyssey (TAO), a global arts network who supports arts education, and an advisor for the Visual Art Program within the Diasporic Vietnamese Artist Network (DVAN). Since 2012, she continues expanding her portfolio as Artist-in-Residence for the University of California Irvine’s Vietnamese American Oral History Project (VAOHP), as she brings a visual arts language to help tell the stories of Vietnamese America. Also currently serving as Artist-in-Residence for Cal State Fullerton’s Grand Central Art Center, she has developed curriculum and facilitates self-exploratory visual arts workshops for low-income communities of Santa Ana. Trinh has been invited to Stanford University, among multiple other universities, to speak about her work, and has had her paintings and poetry published by Purdue University’s Journal of Southeast Asian American Education & Advancement (JSEAAEA). Recognizing the role of art to educate and heal, Trinh has exhibited in support of the Friends of Hue Foundation Children’s Shelter in Vietnam, the Angkor Hospital for Children in Cambodia, has shown her work at AT&T Park and Union Square to benefit the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation, and at Oracle Arena to aid the Warriors Community Foundation in its mission to support education in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her inspirations and journey as an artist have been documented by TAO in the film called “Honoring Life: The Work of Trinh Mai”, winner of the Audience Choice Award for Best Short Film at the 2016 Viet Film Festival.

This post is part of diaCRITICS’ Vietnamese American Literary Series, OUT OF THE MARGINS, launched in 2015-16. The series curates literary work from poets, writers and artists of Vietnamese-American and Vietnamese diasporic experience. Our mission is to create an inclusive, diverse, provocative, ongoing space for voices and visions from this community, thus bringing them out of the margins. Dao Strom is the series editor and curator.

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