Cambodia-US Hybrid Artworks Go On Show

With painstaking effort, Cambodian-American artist Amy Sanford glued shattered glass back together to create sculptures after returning here from the US.

“It’s a reflection on what I’ve experienced, how I’ve viewed things since I’ve been back,” Ms Sanford said.

The sheets of glass are now stacked as abstract sculptures entitled “Repaired” and on display at a multimedia exhibition “Global Hybrid,” along with 12 other artists linked to Cambodia based here and in the US, at the Metahouse Phnom Penh German-Cambodian Cultural Center.

Ms Sanford returned to her birthplace of Phnom Penh for the first time in September after being sent to family friends in Boston in 1974 when she was 2-years-old.

In between her time spent carefully sticking together glass shards, the artist discovered her origins, finding out how her father was killed by the Khmer Rouge and meeting relatives she never knew she had.

“I’m terrified of shattered glass. I put the pieces back together but you can still see the breaks in that,” she said.

“Global Hybrid” was organized between the cities of Phnom Penh and Long Beach, California, where a large community of Cambodian migrants formed after refugees arrived in the 1980s.

The exhibition of artists connected to Cambodia coincides with the 60th anniversary of US-Cambodia diplomatic relations, co-curator Lydia Parusol said.

“The thematic is transnational identities of people based in Cambodia and Cambodian artists based in the US,” Ms Parusol said.

Phnom Penh artist Meas Sokhorn said he experienced dislocation while spending three months as artist-in-residence in Long Beach this year.

The 4.5-meter installation he made out of 7,000 chopsticks in the US could not be transported to Cambodia for the exhibition.

The sculpture is international: made in the US using chopsticks from China and based on a Cambodian proverb, he said in an interview last week.

“In Cambodia we have a saying that one chopstick is easy to break but hundreds of them are not easy to break.”

Phnom Penh artist Linda Saphan, now based in New York, depicted modern Cambodian women in ink on traditional rice paper. Artworks created in Los Angeles include prints by Tom Tor and videos by Sayon Syprasoeuth from Battambang and watercolor collages by Aragna Ker from Phnom Penh.

Co-curator Denise Scott has collected US-based Cambodian American artists to contribute to exhibitions over the last two years.

“I found isolated first generation immigrants who wanted to go into business,” she said.

Often these artists born in the 1980s hear stories about suffering under the Khmer Rouge that forced their parents to leave Cambodia, Ms Scott said. However, these artists perceive past suffering differently to artists such as S-21 prison survivor Vann Nath, she said.

The “Global Hybrid” exhibition includes Mr Nath’s latest painting dated from June and completed after his hospitalization this year. He based the piece on a poem by U Sam Oeur, a Cambodian living in Texas, about a tree that the Khmer Rouge killed people against.

“Global Hybrid” runs until Aug 18.


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