The Wriston Art Gallery opened a new exhibition on Friday, Jan. 11, featuring multiple artists including faculty members such as Uilhein Fellow of Studio Art Meghan Sullivan and especially guest artist Victoria Kue. Kue’s work was featured with another emerging Hmong-American artist, Tshab Her. Kue was invited to give a presentation on her work, addressing a large audience in the Wriston auditorium.
Victoria Kue earned her degree at the New York State College of Ceramics in Alfred, N.Y. and currently lives and works in Lancaster, Pa. Her work is very intimate, which is mirrored in her presentation. Although she currently paints, Kue’s work spans from ceramic installations to multimedia pieces, drawings, sculpture and paper art. She does not shy away from using an array of mediums; often the medium is very important to the message the piece is conveying. In a piece that was not displayed in the gallery titled “poob ntsej muag (losing face),” Kue talks about using laser cut cardboard and a specific loose dark blue pigment to allude to Hmong batik textiles. It’s clear how important the idea behind the work is to her—it’s not just about aesthetics, but the story behind it. She uses themes like the home and her Hmong identity to explore gender roles, sex and stereotypes. Large themes in Kue’s art are her experience as a Hmong-American woman, family, culture, conflicting morals, identity, sex, sexism, racism and self-care. It was apparent in her talk how personal her work is and how passionate she is about it. She even teared up a few times explaining the meaning behind a work.
In a piece titled “play with yourself,” a tennis ball rests on a cradle shaped piece of satin, embroidered with “self-care.” Kue explained a Hmong courting ritual called pov pop, a match-making game where a man and a woman toss a ball back and forth and talk simultaneously, moving closer to each other. This allusion to the traditional Hmong ritual aims to re-romanticize or normalize self-care and masturbation.
In another piece, which is displayed at the gallery, an accordion book of handwritten letters addresses the moon in very personal, touching notes. With one note for each phase of the moon, Kue writes love letters to it in sparkling cursive, signed “xoxo.” Kue explained in the talk that each letter is secretly written to someone in her life, making the piece even more touching, heartbreaking and beautiful.
Both Victoria Kue’s work and Tshab Her’s, who focuses more on textiles, showcase their unique perspective and talent. The artist talk provided a background and context before going into the gallery. The stories behind these pieces are provocative, personal and touching, and I recommend going to experience the beautiful art in person.