A Long Beach-born painter captures the surrealism of the Cambodian American experience

The first thing you notice about the paintings of Tidawhitney Lek is the hands. Hands slink around doorways and sofas and emerge out of closets and gutters. They play with the locks on your door while you are napping and cleaver banana plants in the middle of the night. Sometimes the hands are green; other times, human shades of brown. Always, they bear glittery manicures. Never is it revealed to whom these hands might belong or whether their intention is protective or sinister.

“People always ask me, ‘Friend or foe?’” Lek says of the mysterious appendages. “I say, ‘That’s the idea.’”

The magic in Lek’s work extends well beyond hands. On the surface, her paintings appear to chronicle intimate domestic scenes. In one canvas, a woman dozes peacefully on a couch; in another, two women linger in a lush garden. But look closer and you’ll find details that unsettle. The sleeping figure rests on a sofa whose abstracted pattern evokes a swarm of winged insects. And the garden where the women idle isn’t a single space but a vertiginous composite of several spaces whose angles defy the laws of physics.

In full: https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2023-11-09/how-tidawhitney-leks-surreal-paintings-illuminate-the-camodian-american-experience-in-l-a

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