What does it mean to be American? What stories do Americans tell themselves about their own American identities? Thuan Vu, professor of art at Southern, has two paintings in a new exhibition at the Katonah Museum of Art in Katonah, NY, that explores questions like these and more. Called Arrivals, the exhibition is curated by Heather Ewing and includes such artistic luminaries as Titus Kaphar, Kara Walker, Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, Cannupa Hanska Luger, Roger Shimomura, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, and many other talented artists.
On view through January 23, 2022, Arrivals is organized around a select series of arrival moments — from Columbus in 1492 to the present day. Arrivals is “a conversation about the stories we have told ourselves and those we have kept silent. Through five centuries of art, the exhibition explores how artists have reckoned with the myths and origin stories that have shaped American identity. In the process, the artists on view chart distinctive aesthetic paths to define ideas of heritage and belonging, navigate their own arrival stories, and hold space for a more capacious understanding for all of us of what it means to be American.”
Vu’s featured paintings are “Transients (Three Sisters)” and “Boat People III.” He describes the paintings in his Transients series as exploring “the landscape of memory and family. Whether coming into focus or slowly disappearing, the imprint of our history will leave its mark.” His Boat People series of paintings he describes as exploring “the relationship between personal identity and historical categorization.”
To accompany the exhibition, the KMA’s Community Gallery will give visitors the opportunity to share their own stories related to family history, immigration, and national identity, and to read about the experiences of other community members. In addition, the Museum’s Learning Center exhibition, Picture Our Journey, will feature original children’s picture book art that shares personal yet universal stories of immigration from around the globe. This hands-on, family-friendly space is open during regular Museum hours.
Arrivals will be accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue with essays by Dr. Christina Knight, assistant professor of visual studies and director of the Visual Studies Program at Haverford College; Dr. Erika Lee, Regents Professor of History and Asian American Studies and director of the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota; and Arrivals curator Heather Ewing. Ewing is associate dean for administrative affairs at New York Studio School and a research associate of the Smithsonian Institution.