Thursday, 6 August 2015

Meet Artist in Resident Reeny Hua

My name is Reeny Hua.  I’m a design student of the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary.  I’ll be writing about my schooling, why I applied for this residency, and what kind of work I am producing during my time here

My program at school, Visual Communications Design, is known for its heavy course load and competitiveness -- pulling all-nighters on top of attending 5 mandatory studio classes that are 6 hours long is not uncommon.  We’re expected to pump out a lot of content and meet deadlines and it does a great job of preparing us for work in the industry.  And then there is the hard truth of being a millennial living in this economy is that having a degree doesn’t guarantee a career, but our degree is highly regarded and it does give us a competitive edge when applying for work in design, illustration, and advertising.

As a result of this heavy workload, students often don’t have much time to work on personal projects outside of school.  Building a portfolio that includes more personal work was my main motivation in applying for this artist residency.  If I hadn’t been accepted, I would have had to work full-time in an unrelated field and could not have done as I wanted.  I was also drawn to the community engagement aspect of the contract requirements and wanted to see if I could teach.  

To prepare myself for public speaking and my artist talk, I joined the Wood Buffalo Toastmasters club where I grew a little more comfortable with being in front of people.  Not enough to be as articulate and nonchalant as I wanted but enough so that I no longer trembled and blank out.  I think I did pretty well with my artist talk considering that I did hit on some heavy topics.

I’ve enjoyed myself with CardboART at the Art-Themed Urban Market and helping to run the Inside Artist’s Studio workshop with the Arts Council.  I’ve built a comradery with my fellow resident artists that is unique as all of our art forms are very different and all of us have different intentions with our work. 

Ruddy always works at a steady pace and it’s nice to have that energy around when I’m in the studio.  He has very strong ties to his homeland of Namibia and his work shows that preservation.  I love seeing his eyes light up when I ask him about his home.  It’s something he does not seem to tire of and I think his art expresses something he needs to balance the responsibilities of a shift worker supporting his family overseas. 

Ruth lives and breathes the art community here and her selflessness and dedication to the youth is amazing.  I would have loved to immerse myself more in the arts community with her, although it seems fulfilling, I can see how busy her life is. I don’t think I could juggle my own projects plus community art.

Luke is working on his Masters of Fine Arts at the University of Windsor. So I can depend on him to give me an honest and sophisticated critique. No topic seems to be too controversial and uncomfortable to touch upon with him.  He’s almost always in the studio and he shares his food with me sometimes.

As to what I’ve been doing, I’ve been trying to get more in touch with my Khmer-Krom/Cambodian roots to gain a better understanding of what I can do increase awareness for Khmer-Krom indigenous rights abuses in Southern Vietnam. I am also exploring the complexities of my identity as a queer, neuroatypical, 2nd generation Asian-Canadian. It’s a tough steak to chew and sadly lots of people still have their baby teeth in regards to these topics.

I grew up with my family members struggling as refugees to obtain new money successes and recognition in academia.  I live a “model minority” life and I often feel guilty in bringing up hardships I still have to face simply for being the way I am.  I grew up with expectations to be passive, studious, inoffensive, conservative, and straight.  Mental health issues was hogwash and art is not a career choice.  Some lessons take generations to learn and I’m hoping that the stigmas and stereotypes towards my identity and the identities of so many others will die with me.  

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