Fragments Art Exhibition Opening Ceremony
On January 15, 2021, Chopstick Alley Art and Evergreen Valley College, both located in San Jose, partnered up to present Fragments, an art show curated by Chopsticks Alley Art founder Trami Cron. The exhibit’s name and theme came from the idea that crucial fragments of people’s identity are often chiseled away by the feeling of belonging and assimilation. Four inspiring artists were featured in the exhibit: Doan Thoi, Hadi Aghaee, Mark Erickson, and Dr. Jerry Hiura. Each of the artists present a unique background, delivering their story of fragments through photography or painting.
The show opened with a performance from the Vietnamese Lasalian Youth Troupe, with a dance called "Tiếng trống Mê Linh" (Revolution Drum of Mê Linh). The same performers finished the show with another danced titled “Xuân Đã Về” (Spring Has Come), to celebrate the coming spring season.
The youngest artist in the exhibit’s line up was Doan Thoi, a social justice student at San Jose State University.
Most of Thoi’s work consists of monochromatic photographs, capturing his evolving relationship with religion as well as everyday life on public transit. In some of his works, his girlfriend is his muse. Thoi’s photographs draw the audience in with their sentimental ambience and careful composition.
More of his work can be found at DoanThoi.com.
Hadi Aghaee, an artist originally from Iran, presented his thought-provoking and intricate paintings. His work confronts the viewer with the social and political unrest in different countries, tackling gender-based oppression and injustice.
Yet, he also paints beautiful landscapes and portraitures. Working in mostly oils and acrylics, Aghaee’s impressive attention to detail and complex concepts are intriguing and breathtaking.
His work is displayed on his website HadiAghaeeFineArt.com.
Mark Erickson is a photographer who was born in Vietnam during the war and adopted in the US at the age of 3. After connecting with fellow Vietnamese-Americans for the first time while studying at Harvard University, Erickson dove into documentary photography.
His work featured in the Fragments exhibit presents Vietnamese people in their everyday lives: working, playing, getting haircuts or instigating a cock fight, the subjects of his photography smile comfortably back at him as their surroundings tell a story on their own.
To see Erickson’s work, please visit MarkFErickson.com.
Last in the event lineup was the beloved artist, Dr. Jerry Hiura.
Hiura was an amazing advocate for the arts in the San Jose community, as well as a talented artist himself. He worked in several mediums, from acrylics to watercolor, and painted a variety of portraits and landscapes. Each of Hiura’s pieces are unique and full of vibrant colors and a variety of brush strokes, while demonstrating different techniques.
Along with his visual work, Hiura was also an author, poet, and editor. Hiura’s pieces can be found on DrJerryHiura.com.
The Fragments exhibit was not only about paintings and photography. The event also featured a semi-live pre-recorded poetry performance by queer Filipino-American artist Shelley Valdez and Chopsticks Alley’s very own Esther Young, who accompanied Valdez on the guitar. Together they performed a poem called “The Softest Bitch in Town,” written by Valdez.
The poem was an honest and real depiction of Valdez’ personality and how she is coming to terms with her weaknesses, more so accepting herself for who she is. This performance was an excellent addition to the exhibit, as the poem highlighted the different fragments that Valdez identifies in herself as the “The Softest Bitch in Town”.
Fragments is the first fully digital exhibit that Chopsticks Alley has hosted; thankfully, all aspects of the ceremony transitioned smoothly, allowing an evening of wonderful energy, storytelling and art to shine through.
There are definitely pros to having an online exhibit. Some of the featured artists felt less nervous, and the event was largely accessible. People who just finished work were able to join in. Those with social anxiety feel more comfortable attending an art exhibit online, where they don't have to show their faces. Most importantly, this online exhibit allowed anyone to consume art in the comfort of their home during a pandemic.
But one thing most people probably wanted to do during the art exhibit was to see the art up close and soak it all in. Personally, I (Harleen) would have liked to see some of the artwork in real life—especially Hadi Aghaee’s paintings, since there were many detailed elements to his work.
In the middle of a pandemic, poor internet connection and limited bandwidth are the bane of anyone's virtual event experience. Yet despite all that, the opening night of Fragments turned out to be amazing, with many attendees flooding the chat with compliments, questions and heartfelt thank you's to the artists, performers, exhibition staff, and curators.
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Chopsticks Alley Intern
Ashley is a landscape architecture student and freelance illustrator based in the Bay Area. She hopes to explore more about her own Southeast Asian culture, and also encourages others to do the same. Ashley believes that creativity and culture go hand in hand. When she is not working on her creative projects, she enjoys swimming, gardening, and baking.
Chopsticks Alley Intern
Harleen is a freshman at Foothill College pursuing her B.A. in philosophy. She ran her high school’s newspaper PHHS The Legend as a managing editor , and was later inducted into the Quill and Scroll Honor Society as a lifetime member. Growing up in San Jose, Harleen hopes to write about and amplify the voices of the Vietnamese and Pinoy community that she is surrounded by. She hopes to attend law school and become a lawyer who will give back to her community.