My father repaired and created things we needed, having had to rebuild a life in the US from scratch as a Vietnamese refugee. It was a constant reminder throughout my childhood that we were part of “the have nots”. Later in life I began to appreciate the shift in perspective required to consider, build, use, and cherish ersatz objects. A rigorous formal design education would reinforce the merits of multidisciplinary craft skills and creative material usage.
My sculptures focus on the ersatz, luxury, desire, and consumption through reconfiguration and recontextualization of discarded materials. Interior design and home furnishings inspire my work. I view objects filling up a home as the collective embodiment of a person’s desires and needs. They are one’s values physically manifested into tools for comfort and utilitarian requirement. A person protectively surrounds themselves with objects like a cocoon, yet the collective is more akin to a forest where one forgets how to see an individual tree much less a single leaf.
Because of the sheer volume of material, my work deals formally with pattern and requires an enormous amount of repetitive manual labor. The material’s inherent properties dictate the reconfiguration and inform the recontextualization. Production is almost meditative at times, but more often than not the physical demands are quite daunting. Each piece I create literally requires my blood, sweat, and tears, though I aim to surprise and delight my audience and help shift their perceptions of value.
I employ two questions when choosing a material to use. What is the perceived value? How often is it discarded? I prefer material with the least value and usefulness. A higher regularity at which it is discarded indicates there is enough volume for use, but more importantly a waste stream which urgently needs to be addressed. I treat the material as if it were gold. Through my process I imbue it with more value—gathering, cleaning, sorting, storing, and arranging the material before it is even used.