At the end of corridor in the Ogden Museum of Art in New Orleans, Nail Salon, a show by artist Christian Dinh speaks simply but profoundly. A series of sculptures and ceramic pieces focus on the nail art business because for so many Vietnamese women, it’s their entry into American culture and the working world. The show invites so many questions and sparks so many thoughts, starting with the relationship between American culture and the marketplace. It also deals with translation and how immigrants find ways to express their hopes and dreams in an American context.
Christian Dinh, French Tip, 2020
The objects themselves are gorgeous and beautifully crafted, including a rack of hand-carved bottles of nail polish, each painted a slightly different variation of yellow.
I loved the focus on a women-led business, as well as Dinh’s willingness to create works that are so culturally specific that only other Vietnamese-American community will fully get them since Vietnamese text and imagery integrated into the work add layers of nuance—I assume—that those of us who don’t speak the language or know the cultural visual vocabulary will miss. Still, while we may feel like we’re missing an element here and there, Nail Salon speaks powerfully, engagingly, and with a sly humor. And if we feel a little left out at times, I imagine that’s how immigrants feel when asked to process American pop culture too.
The show is up through January 16, 2022, so you have time to see it. You can see photos of the work and an interview with Dinh at the Ogden’s website, but the photos are a poor substitute for seeing the show in person.
Christian Dinh, Tôm Vase, 2021
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