Space Between

A BFA Thesis Presented

By

Grace Vo

Artist Statement

Since my childhood, and continuing to this day, my family has shared a traditional American meal in the morning we call “Sunday Family Breakfast.” There always is crispy golden hash browns, fried yellow eggs, and a heaping plate of oily bacon and sausage. We gather around the table to eat, now awake from the bustling kitchen duties and fragrant breakfast foods. One thing I always notice at the end of my meal is my empty plate. This is not a white plate, but a rich red plate designed with white, green, and teal flowers and Chinese characters. After I eat my American breakfast I am always left with an intricate and beautiful array of Chinese characters, designs, and colors. 

Inventing the tradition of Sunday Family Breakfast fulfilled my parent’s chosen social obligation to impart American culture to me and my sisters. But as I grew older and became aware of my surroundings, I realized I was treated differently because of my ethnicity. I did not feel integrated into society but instead merely tolerated. I felt tolerated because I practiced using my American name over my Vietnamese name, and accentuated American traditions over Vietnamese ones. While these compromises sustained me in society, it made it very clear to me that I was living a life of cultural hybridity, constantly navigating two identities: my Vietnamese side and my American side.

Today, I embrace this hybrid identity and it influences my desires and needs.  For my BFA Thesis, I have created a space to express my feelings about my Asian and American identities and the challenges they pose. I work in multimedia, using traditional and non-traditional materials while considering how space and surface can alter the significance of a piece of work. My thesis exhibition consists of large scale paintings on walls, drawings, as well as several paintings on canvases. Now working within the constraints of the pandemic, I have continued to explore the narrative of my hybrid identity through a series of illustrations and collages culminating in an artist book, The Space Between.