Phung Huynh’s ‘Resistance Aunties’ exhibition challenges perceptions of Asian feminine beauty

Pretty Hurts

As a refugee who moved from Vietnam to the United States as a toddler, Phung Huynh describes her cultural identity as a “slippery combination of Chinese, Cambodian, Vietnamese, and American, but never in equal parts.” Her multicultural upbringing brings her to question cultural identities. Through combining traditional Chinese iconography with popular American culture, she aims to challenge the viewer with both western-leaning and nonwestern-leaning perspectives. 

In the exhibition, Huynh explores the clashing perceptions of female beauty. From the traditional ideal inspired by Chinese feet-binding of Asian feminine beauty which embraces small feet, small eyes, a broad forehead, and small breasts to the current trends influenced by western canons which call for larger eyes, a delicate forehead, a taller nose, and larger breasts; Huynh examines how plastic surgery has “not only obscured racial identity but has also amplified the exoticism and Orientalist eroticism of Asian women.” The result is an awkward synthesis of traditional and non-traditional, of east and west, that challenges our understandings of cultural representations and stereotypes. 

The Fresno State Center of Creativity and the Arts presents “Resistance Aunties,” an exhibition of paintings by Phung Huynh from Feb. 6-28 at the M Street Gallery (1419 M Street) in Downtown Fresno. The community is invited to a free opening reception during Art Hop at 5 p.m. Feb. 6. Sponsored by the Asian American Studies program, the Department of Art and Design, and LAUNCH LA gallery. This exhibition contains nudity and is intended for mature and adult audiences.

Huynh is a Los Angeles based artist who graduated from the Art Center College of Design in 1999 with a B.F.A. in illustration. She went on to earn her M.F.A. in studio art from New York University in 2001. She is currently a Professor of Art at Los Angeles Valley College.

Huynh has exhibited nationally and internationally. She has also completed public art commissions for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro Orange Line, Metro Silver Line, and Metro Neighborhood Poster Series) and the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens.

Rocky, 2019. Graphite on paper.
Rocky, 2019. Graphite on paper.

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The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

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