My earliest memories include a love for making. As a young girl in a refugee camp, I would crochet a small bag from a tiny ball of yarn. After admiring the finished bag, I would unravel it and make the same bag again. The making was what inspired me.

It was natural to pursue an artistic life, where the process never ends and is filled with continuous learning. At the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, I received a dual degree in painting and graphic design. I worked at both for years, but decided to leave my design job to paint. I have taken further instruction in classical realism with David Hardy and with the Ryder Studio.

My practice has led me to the present group of small still life paintings. I exhibit them as a unit since I conceived them to form a visual narrative. It aims, by way of metaphor, to contain and express the complexity of trauma.

The first painting in the series was Embrace. It revealed the narrative to me, which can be read sequentially, but then also more completely as a network of metaphorical references. The still-life objects express a trauma, through allusions to shame, guilt, sexuality and death. In the last paintings they return to formal concerns of composition, pattern, and color balance. I hope to convey through narrative, the mystery, confusion and open-ended quality of emotional experience.

© 2020 by Vahn Phan