This exhibition features 11 works from Nail Salon, several of which are decorated porcelain casts of display hands typically seen in a nail salon. As many workers in the nail industry are immigrants who speak little or no English, the display hands serve as translator tools – or means of communicating services to clients. On these sculptures, Dinh depicts different ideals of success in Vietnamese-American culture such as Catholicism, Vietnamese New Year (Tết) and the family household. “These ideals are what bring the Vietnamese culture together in a country where they are the minority,” explains Dinh.
“Vietnamese nail salons are often stigmatized, due to the association with lower-class minority work,” says Dinh. “However, I believe the Vietnamese nail salon to be one of the great success stories of the Vietnamese-American community.”
“With his vessels, Dinh elegantly fuses high art and low art, tradition and kitsch, to convey a pop aesthetic of contemporary Vietnamese-American culture,” explains Bradley Sumrall, Ogden Museum’s Curator of the Collection. “With the cast hands of his Nail Salon works, Dinh confronts the stigma associated with the subject, reclaiming the space to convey a narrative of family values, hard work, sacrifice and success for his community.”
This special artist spotlight is part of FOCUS, a new series launched in February 2021 at Ogden Museum featuring the work of both established and rising regional artists making an impact with their artistry. The series serves as a platform for artists to share their work and the important messages it conveys. Ogden Museum hopes this ongoing initiative will illustrate the powerful role art plays in the complex and vibrant fabric that is the American South.
My current body of work centers on the experience of a first generation Asian-American. The work focuses on the Vietnamese culture that developed in the United States subsequent to the Vietnam War and the flourishing Vietnamese community established by refugees and immigrants throughout the country. The cultural way of life, traditions and beliefs of Vietnam have been brought over to America in fragments by the Vietnamese immigrants. The resilience of the Vietnamese people allowed them to adapt to their displacement and create a new culture with what was around them. This culture that the Vietnamese people established has shaped my experience as a first generation Asian-American. Through my artwork, I am bringing attention to the experiences, objects, places and values that are part of the identity of the Vietnamese-American people. My artwork redirects stigma and celebrates Vietnamese-American identity by confronting racism, stereotypes and underrepresentation. Vietnamese nail salons are often stigmatized, due to the association with lower-class minority work. However, I believe the Vietnamese nail salon to be one of the great success stories of the Vietnamese-American community. My series, Nail Salon, redirects this stigma and highlights the success of the Vietnamese nail salon industry. The pieces in the Nail Salon series are porcelain cast of display hands typically seen in a nail salon. The display hands signify the idea of a translator. Many workers in the nail industry are immigrants who speak little or no English and rely on visual representation to communicate. The hands in Tết, AROMA, French Tip and Cám ơn represent a tool of communication for those dealing with the everyday struggles of language barriers. The hands and nails have depictions of different ideals of success in Vietnamese-American culture based on my experience, such as Catholicism, Vietnamese New Year (Tết) and the family household. These ideals are what bring the Vietnamese culture together in a country where they are the minority.
Born in 1992, Christian Dinh is a Vietnamese-American ceramic artist from Orlando, Florida. He received his B.F.A. in 2017 from the University of West Florida in Pensacola. While studying at UWF, Dinh was nominated for the International Sculpture Center’s Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award. Relocating to New Orleans in 2018, Dinh is currently attending the M.F.A. program at Tulane University. Dinh’s ceramic and sculptural work has been in numerous exhibitions throughout the Gulf Coast, including And Now For Something New Vol. 2 at LeMieux Gallery in New Orleans and PHILIC / PHOBIC at the Pensacola Museum of Art.
Curated Conversation with Christian Dinh and Bradley Sumrall, Curator of the Collection