Exhibit: Walking Through Mist: Metaphors and Memories featuring Phan Barker

September 16, 2023 @ 10:00 am – October 8, 2023 @ 4:00 pm
Volcano Art Center
19-4074 Old Volcano Road
HI 96785
Emily Catey Weiss

Walking Through Mist – Metaphors and Memories, continues through Sunday, October 8th at Volcano Art Center’s Niaulani Campus (19-4074 Old Volcano Rd.) in Volcano Village.  Open Wednesday through Sunday, from 10 am – 4 pm. Closed Mondays & Tuesdays.

Phan was born in Tu Chau, Ha Dong Province, North Vietnam, and went south with her family when Vietnam was divided in 1954.  For many years she did not want to return to Vietnam because, in her mind, it was a place of death and sorrow.

In 1992, Phan returned to Vietnam with Jeanette Foster, a journalist friend.  After 23 years, Phan re-established a relationship with her older sister, nine children, and grandchildren. Phan and Jeanette took her sister and family to their birthplace 30 miles north of Hanoi. They visited relatives in their ancestral home and burned incense at their mother’s grave.

On her return home to Hawaiʻi, Phan dealt for months with the overwhelming emotions stirred up by the trip.  She struggled with various media, and a new work emerged.  She named it The White Mourning Cloth series. “The series of work is about my unresolved feeling for my mother and my motherland, mourning the souls that died in the Vietnam War and healing the wounds—mine and others—whose life has been affected by the war.”   In conjunction with her exhibit, she presented a slide show and lecture entitled Seedlings of Peace and a healing ceremony for the community.

In this series, Walking Through Mist, Phan shares with the community haunting images from the past, untangled emotional issues, honors her parents, Uncle and Aunt, and pays tribute to people who sheltered and helped her reach the United States.

Cheesecloth, bamboo, silk, thread, woodcut printed paper, and drywall are the materials she uses to re-weave and reclaim her world’s past utilizing the half-century of growing skill and understanding. In Vietnamese culture, cheesecloth is used in making mourning clothes.  “For me,” says Phan, “this fabric embodies eternal sadness.  Its sheerness is mystical.”

In December 2021, the Walking Through Mist Series debuted at the East Hawaiʻi Cultural Center.  The curator, Andrzej Kramars, said it was one of the year’s three best exhibitions.

“…. It is one of the most moving, extraordinary exhibits I have ever seen.  Each piece was so moving, and so meticulously done.  Thank you for bringing this to us.”  Marilyn Nicholson, Former Director VAC.

“It is a gallery of memories, so skillfully assembled that we are drawn into another world, into that temple of quiet that is recollection.  Images in thread on the semi-transparent gauze of mourning cloth are a perfect vehicle and metaphor for memory – convey the underlying emotion where memories reside.”  Caroline Garrett, Writer, Poet.

“This exhibit is a treasure that took her a lifetime to make.  It is breathtakingly beautiful aesthetically, conceptually, and a deeply meaningful gift openly given from a truthful soul.”  Elizabeth Miller, Artist.

Phan has participated and lectured nationally and locally in numerous Invitational Exhibitions, including the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition, the US Geological Survey’s Asian Pacific American Art Exhibition, the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, and The Contemporary Museum in Hawaiʻi. Her artwork is in the Honolulu Art Museum, Hawaiʻi State Art Museum, and the Toyota Corporation collections.

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