The Ford Family Gallery at White Bear Center for the Arts features rotating exhibitions throughout the year. The gallery is free and open to the public.
Monday-Friday 9:00 AM-4:00 PM
Tuesday & Thursday 6:30-8:30 PM
Saturday 10:00 AM-3:00 PM
Call 651.407.0597 for additional hours
Becoming American: Sieng Lee
September 11 – October 21, 2017
Artist Sieng Lee is interested in the intersections of being Hmong and American. His sculptural installation work tells stories of his Hmong-American experience while inviting the viewer to explore what it means to “Become American.” Sieng will lecture on his work, process, and challenges as a first generation Hmong-American artist. He believes in the power of sharing like experiences as a means to foster growth and strengthen community.
Opening Reception: Thursday, September 14, 6:30PM – 8:30PM
Lecture: Tuesday, September 26, 7:00PM – 8:30PM
Family Gallery Tour & Project: Saturday, October 14, 1:00PM – 3:00PM
Please join us for a family friendly reception and artmaking project with Sieng Lee.
Click below to watch a short video of volunteers helping Sieng install his exhibition!
By Sieng Lee
In 1991, my family and I left Thailand’s refugee camps and arrived to the United States. Like other immigrants before us, we came to this country in pursuit of economic and social mobility. My parents internalized within each of their six children that we were lucky to be American, and to be American was the greatest opportunity possible in comparison to our previous life of fleeing persecution and poverty.
What does it mean to “become American?” The concept of “becoming” requires a shift, if not an abandonment, of a previous state of being. For many, it is a metamorphic journey that calls upon the necessary sacrifice of identity and all in which identity encompasses: history, language, and belonging. More than anything, it is a revolution that takes place within the self. It is a revolution with the power to change generations and perhaps the face of an entire nation, and it begins with desire.
Although the culture of American pride may be overwhelming, it is at the very least captivating. Even those like my parents whom had never stepped foot on American soil had themselves internalized this desire to become. For them, it was a journey of will and self-determination.
And through this journey I have found inspiration in the many intersections of my identity. This can range from but isn’t limited to being Hmong, an American, a refugee, a man, and a person of color. These identities have led way to endless avenues of curiosity, confusion and contradictions, giving rise to deep criticism and critical thought of self and of community. From this, I draw my inspiration.
I create works of art utilizing traditional and cultural artifacts from my Hmong heritage to conceptualize personal experiences. Like much of my work, this piece aims to convey anxiety, distress, fear, and the uncanny sense of being wedged between the often conflicting Hmong and American cultures. There exists a double bind in navigating these cultures that as a child caused me to struggle finding place as a Hmong American while never fully being one or the other. This personal experience caused an internal displacement much like my own experience as a political refugee.