Barker, Phan Nguyen

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For Phan, creating artwork is part of healing from trauma and she is able to make small peace with the past through her mixed media installations and sculptures. Phan was born in a Catholic Village north of Hanoi and went south with her family at the time of partition in l954. She came to the United States in l969. For many years she did not want to return to Vietnam because in her mind it was a place of death and sorrow.
In January l992 she was able to return with an American woman journalist friend. After a 23-year absence, she was able to re-establish her relationship with her sister and her sister’s nine children and nine grandchildren. She was able to return to her native village north of Hanoi to visit her uncle and cousins and to burn incense at her mother’s grave.
On her return home to Kona, she dealt for months with the overwhelming emotions stirred by the trip. She tried various media to express her mourning for her mother and all of those who died in the Vietnam War. She began with paintings and quilts, but then a new kind of work emerged. She writes: “This series of works is about my unresolved feeling for my mother’s land, about mourning the souls that died in the Vietnam war, and about healing the wound—mine and others—whose life has been affected by the war. MAU TRANG KHAN TANG or THE WHITE MOURNING CLOTH is about making peace with part of my soul that was in pain all through these years—the pain of growing up in the war, of seeing suffering, death, violence, and corruption.” When the series was completed, Phan created a Healing Ceremony for the community at the reception for the exhibition in Kona in August 1994.
Through Phan’s Rainforest Series, Metamorphosis, The White Mourning Cloth, and Temple for the Wandering Souls Series, we go from joy through sadness to post-traumatic rebirth.

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