Written by Greysen Strumpler Head Student Ambassador, 2023-24
In the Fall of 2019, I was in my senior year of high school. As an art student myself, I was a participant in the Ledger Enquirer’s Page One competition, in which students from a variety of subject areas were able to create a volunteer project related to their area of expertise and use it to serve the local community. It was during this time that I was introduced to the name Vinh Huýnh, an extraordinary artist as well as another senior art student that was participating in the program alongside me. I can clearly remember how impressed I was at one of my peer’s projects – someone that I had yet to even meet. I was not aware that in just a couple of years, Vinh would be one of my peers in art school whose pieces I constantly anticipated seeing at art shows and gallery openings.
Although I had been able to formally meet Vinh and discuss art with him at different receptions and community events, it was not until recently that I was able to finally sit down with him and delve into who he is as a person and what drives his creative process.
Vinh Huýnh is now a Bachelor of Fine Arts student at Columbus State University with a concentration in printmaking. Although Vinh’s concentration is in printmaking, he considers himself an interdisciplinary, able to wield many mediums, techniques, and styles. In 2018, Vinh immigrated to the United States from Vietnam. With almost no experience with English, Vinh was not only able to quickly adapt to an unknown culture and learn its language, but excel and succeed, impressing many in the community with both his artwork and community outreach projects such as his work on the murals on Dragonfly Trail as well as at local schools like Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: How long have you been an artist and have the visual arts been something that you’ve always been drawn towards?
A: I always loved art, but I didn’t really find my passion and consider that I wanted to be an artist until I came to America in 2018.
When I was little in Vietnam, my dad was a jewelry maker, and my mom was a tailor, so I liked to watch them make crafts, and I feel that it started there. I liked making stuff, but I didn’t consider that I wanted to be an artist until I came to America around 2017. I didn’t know any English, so I took an art class because it was easy credit.
I got into art classes and then I got really nice art teachers who encouraged me to make art. They were like ‘I think you have talent that you should consider being an artist or art teacher.’ Another thing that really draws me to art is that I feel like art is something that I can use to communicate with people – something that is hard to speak, but it’s easier to deliver through art. It was something I can do and I feel grateful. It just pulled me into more art, and I got more attracted to it.
Dreamer, intaglio printmaking, 2021
Q: Something that stood out to me as you were talking was how you mentioned that you didn’t know any English when you came to America, but you decided to take an art class, and that it allowed you to better communicate. Could you tell me more about this experience of using art as a form of communication?
A: We are all human. We all have the ability to see things and imagine stuff. It’s become a universal language. It’s different from written language.
Different cultures have different symbols with different meanings. I find it really interesting. We see one image, but different cultures have different meanings even though we see it as a universal thing – the underlying is something different. I think that that is something that we can only find in art.
Q: Explain your work to me. What are you trying to capture thematically within your work?
A: When I started making art, I just wanted to make something pretty. And then I started to explore more of what art means to me. My culture is a symbol in my
art. I like to play around with self-identity as an immigrant in America, and I explore my queer identity with self-love. And then it started to evolve. Currently, I explore my transition into adulthood with themes like romance and sexual eroticism in my art right now.
Q: You’ve mentioned how your heritage has a big impact on your work. Do you mind explaining how it influences what you create?
A: I make a lot of art using symbols. For example, in one of my pieces called My Two Cultures, I used different colors like red and blue as a symbol for being in America, but I’m using yellow and red as my Vietnamese flag. In that piece, I’m using an eagle to represent American culture and a lotus to represent Vietnamese culture. I also use the butterfly as a symbol of loss as well as a symbol of transformation. These are symbols of my heritage.
One of the things I have experienced because I came here in my teenage years is the American culture, and then my family carries tradition and sometimes I feel like I’m not American enough compared to my peers. Then I talk to my parents and I have different views from tradition and it makes me feel in between those two cultures. It’s something I cannot really tell my parents, but by showing my art I got a chance to explain my point of view to them.
Bedtime Prayer, Collage of intaglio and photogram, 2023
Q: Tell me more about other influences for your work.
A: I’m inspired by the contemporary artist Antonio Goicolea, a Cuban-American artist. He’s queer and has explored sexuality in his work and it’s bold.
I also get inspired by pop culture and definitely poetry. There’s this Vietnamese poet, Xuan Dieu. He writes about his lovers and romance and sexuality, and I really like that aspect. Sometimes I just listen to a song, and then I’m thinking about my relationships and get inspiration to make new art.
Q: What role does art hold in your life?
A: I use art to tell my story and express myself. We as humans all share life and experiences. By telling my story, people can see themselves in my work, and I think it's something that makes my own work important.
Q: What is the message that you hope to share with the world with your voice as an artist?
A: Keep exploring yourself and keep being authentic to yourself and keep making work. ◼️