May 1 – 7, 2022
Honors Candidate Exhibition
Quynh Nhu Vu
Every day of my childhood was spent with my parents at their dry cleaning and alterations business, except for Sundays, which were closed, and instead, we attended church. Closed Sundays is an installation that investigates the interrelationship between the two most fundamental parts of my upbringing: Catholicism and dry cleaning.
French colonialism and 19th century imperialism left Vietnam with a variety of lasting cultural influences, but perhaps the greatest French import was Catholicism. The second most impactful might be the Latin alphabet, in which its transcription of the Vietnamese language continues to be read and written in today. These relics of a disrupted history linger in my parents’ 1,008 square foot business.
A donation jar labeled “St. John” collects loose pocket change from the trousers of customers.
A bulletin board proudly displays: a list of offered services and their prices, a prayer cut from a Vietnamese-Catholic newspaper, a string of prayer beads, and a wallet-sized image of Jesus.
A dusty bottle of holy water rests on top of the microwave and beside a can of Cafe Du Monde with chicory.
Custom printed tag invoices display every day of the week except for the holy Sabbath day.
Laundry bags are labeled with my grandfather’s calligraphic English handwriting, despite his inability to read the language.
Reconfiguring objects of familiarity- whose true significance I have become numb to- in a space outside of where they belong, creates a hyperreal space that feels estranged from my memories. By removing them from the space I have become accustomed to experiencing them in, they become sacralized in the context of the gallery. No longer existing as practical objects, they are transformed into relics whose sanctity is enhanced by gallery conventions- to display, to view, and, most importantly, not to touch. In result, an uncanny slippage from my own reality is created.
Not only do the objects, both holy and mundane, become sacred, but their uses and purposes are also transformed as they take part in the ritualistic and unseen mystified process of cleansing, repairing, and forgiving each garment. Intending to honor these processes from a place of reflection, I created this installation not through the motive of criticism or escapism, but through healing and acceptance. Acceptance of the contemporary Vietnamese-American existence and all it entails. Acceptance of decades of lasting generational trauma. And the reconciliation of my past with an irreversible history.
Quynh Vu is an artist and student based in North Carolina, USA. Expecting to graduate in 2022, she is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s in Studio Art at Wake Forest University. Much of her work reflects the continuous process of attempting to understand her identity as a Vietnamese American woman- an identity that invokes strong sentiments towards both Western and Vietnamese culture and history. Working primarily in 2-D, Vu directly faces the lasting impressions of Western influence on modern social dynamics.