Trinh Mai

As a second-generation Vietnamese American visual artist and through a vast breath of media–natural, foraged, and/or inherited–Trinh Mai interprets the stories of humanity through her own ears, eyes, and hands. With deep respect, she binds these inherited stories into our witnessing of history’s alliteration, of persecution and injustice, of mass exodus and the tribulations that we continue to face upon arrival, and of the anticipated opportunities that indeed await us on new horizons.

Through the visual art language, she retells the stories of humanity, while focusing on our witnessing of war, the wounds we’ve survived, our collective need to heal, and the custodial responsibility to which we are heirs. Her current work serves as an aperture into which she examines the experiences of an enduring People who have been targeted worldwide, amidst an immigration and refugee crisis that has been a consistent humanitarian struggle throughout all human history. Drawn from intimate experiences of heartache and triumph, of struggle and perseverance, and of loss and fulfillment, her art practice strives to find comfort by searching for, and then sharing the discovered faith, fulfillment, and freedom that have fostered her/Us during these anguishing times.

Through the creative process, she adopts the joys and the hardships and the meandering liminal spaces that are experienced through these histories, rewrites them as true tales of triumph, also a reminder that out of tragedy is ever born the blessings that we might have never been able to predict could or would come.

Seeking hope within humanity’s incessant struggle in war and hardship, she has partnered with Oceanside Museum of Art, MiraCosta College, and Bowers Museum in developing projects that engage survivors of war. With San Diego Art Institute, she has produced interactive works that address the injustices that fuel fear and incite conflict within refugee communities, and worked with International Rescue Committee in providing arts education to refugee youth from Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa in honoring home, heritage, history, and heroism. Her artistic journey has been documented by TAO in the film called Honoring Life: The Work of Trinh Mai, which brought home the Audience Choice Award for Best Short Film at the 2016 Viet Film Festival.

Artist Work

Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2019. Oil on canvas, 60 x 72" (2019)
I began this painting shortly after my sister, Kelly, passed in July 2017. As we’ve sat with refugee community members and their sons and their daughters to somehow help bring comfort to the families in this plight, these gatherings have incited an unceasing prayer for deliverance: Let our people go.

From the Snare of the Fowler, 2019. Acrylic, charcoal, hand embroidery, and tears on paper, 28 x 42” (2019)
This piece speaks on the responsibility that we have in protecting our children. In today’s reality, where children are taking care of children, in war, in poverty, in detention centers all over the world, there is a potential within them that is waiting to be realized.

War Wounds, 2016. Bird feathers, tattered dragonfly wings, flower petals, leaves, paper, papyrus, textile, thread, tree bark, and wool, dimensions variable (2016)
The delicate materials used to craft these physical and emotional wounds speak on our collective need to heal. As we wait for time to mend, we witness the grace that is born from this grief—the invaluable lessons learned, the significant Truths that surface, and the kindling of profound Compassion.