I was born in Saigon, Vietnam. Being very shy, I spent much of my childhood hiding away upstairs painting, instead of playing with other children. My first brush with success was a Best of Show prize at the 1974 children's exhibition in Saigon sponsored by UNICEF. In 1975 Saigon fell and in the resulting confusion I was separated from my parents. I ended up in a refuge camp near Hong Kong for a year prior to immigrating to the United States as an orphan. After one very snowy and cold winter in Pennsylvania, I went to Los Angeles to stay with some relatives.
     During my high school years, I earned extra money doing fashion modeling work in the garment district and upon graduation started on the pre-med program in college. During this time I fell in love with art again and changed my major to art. While in college I had an acting stint in Hollywood on the side (I got a part in Oliver Stone's 'Heaven and Earth' and followed with a lead role in Elizabeth Hong Yang's 'Touch Within' in China).
     After getting my art degree, I have since settled down to pursue my art career in Los Angeles,  later Seattle and finally Hawaii with the big excitement being adopting my first daughter from China and my second daughter from Vietnam.

Professional qualifications:
BFA in painting, California State University Long Beach .
Two grants from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Three grants from the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation.
My work is represented in many public and private collections in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Mexico . 
Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery (NPG) 2016 portrait competition exhibition (March 12, 2016 through January 8, 2017). It will then travel to five host museums across the country from February 2017 through September 2018.


Thu Nguyen, the artist that carried the light with
7 Mar 2014
Guillermo Herranz Luna, Community Manager

"Influenced by Andrew Wyeth, I created realistic work with a sense of conceptual not just another pretty painting. I want each painting to tell a story - my story."

When she created her space at, what caught our attention from Thu Nguyen was her realism applied to everyday scenes, we were dazzled by the light that dips her artworks and surprised by the contrasts in family scenes, where her daughters and her own naked body are the main object of some of her works. Besides, she is part of that cross-group called “exiled artists”, creators that for one reason or another have ended up residing and developing their creative work far away from their homes, and when we find one of these artists we wonder about the implications of this exile in the work they produce. In the case of Thu, the research on her motivations for painting leads us directly to the leap from her native Saigon to the heart of Pennsylvania. "I was born in Saigon, Vietnam. Being very shy, I spent much of my childhood upstairs making quilts, doll clothes, and painting, instead of playing with other children. My painting won Best of Show prize at a 1974 children's exhibition in Saigon sponsored by UNICEF. In 1975, my family was split up. I ended up in Hong Kong for a year prior to immigrating to the United States as an orphan. After one very snowy and cold winter in Pennsylvania, I came to Los Angeles". And we realize that her works are illuminated to suggest certain environments of Southeast Asia, leading us to believe that when Thu immigrated to the United States, she took the light of her homeland with her.

"I have always been interested in art.  I started to paint when I was 5 years old.  I used to watch my uncle paint and wished to grow up becoming a painter myself." But it was in Pennsylvania where she found what she considers the central influence in her life as an artist, the famous American realistic and regionalist painter Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009). In this artist it is staged with particular intensity the quasi- schizoid dissociation of the American artistic culture, where the popular and high culture cannot be separated without affecting vital organs of any of the cultured arts, from literature and film to music and visual arts, as it could be easily done in Europe. However, Mr. Wyeth, the "people’s painter", having developed an artistic career that earned him fame and fortune by creating works of recognizable intrinsic beauty, ended up harassed by a perpetual controversy with the official critique.  The art historian Robert Rosenblum, when asked about the most overrated and most underrated artist, chose the name of Andrew Wyeth for both categories. Still alive, his exhibitions will convene long queues while certain “cultured” critique scoffs calling him “realistic illustrator” or finding his rural themes monotonous.  

Both Andrew Wyeth and Thu Nguyen coincide in suggesting an exquisite realism, of great formal technique, below which strong emotions flow, symbolic contents and non-figurative elements that tell the story of the work and the personal life of the artist. Wyeth also does not avoid the nude, although he focuses on a non-idealized female nudity, with a carnality as that of Lucien Freud (1922-2011) –if we leave aside the passing of time or death-, but without the "radicalism" of representing oneself practiced by Paula Modershon-Becker (1876-1907), Frida Kahlo (1907-1955), Alice Neel (1900-1984) or Jenny Saville (1907), among others. The self portrait of nudity itself could be seen as a step for women towards overthrowing clichés in the art world, where they are still a minority. The latest annual report on the art market by Art Price consulting does not name women among the ten top selling contemporary painters in the United States, China or Europe. Julie Mehretu (1970), the Ethiopian abstract painter is the first woman in the top 500 best-selling artists of 2013, in position number 33.

When asked about the current situation of woman in the art scene, she answers: "Yes, women are still minority as compared to men in the art scene but things are getting better than it used to be [...] Galleries tend to promote male artists over females artists in many of the situations I have faced during my life time. I can't recall any Vietnamese American female artists is being promote and made famous here in the USA as compared to some Vietnamese American male artists that was made into star artists ....names I shall not mention....".  

Thu Nguyen is used to stand under the gaze of the spectator "I got a part in Oliver Stone's 'Heaven and Earth' and followed with a lead role in Elizabeth Hong Yang's 'Touch Within' in China , while working as a fashion model for 4 years) [...] My life experiences has inspired me to paint.  Growing up in Hollywood inspired me to make my painting more theatrical .To me, my paintings are my life's movies being shown as visual art.

When asked about the process of her work from conception to its end, Thu answers:  "I don't have special tools, just traditional paints and brushes.  I normally think about an idea for the upcoming painting for a while before actually doing it.  I think about what story I want to tell my viewers. Neither I have a fancy studio.  I currently live in a small apartment with my family and I clear out an area of the apartment to make my studio space." Simple and mundane means and workspace for a creativity that makes the most common or intimate moments eternal, recreating the most personal universe of a woman. "I love painting because it gives me great enjoyment. I lose myself in time and the day to day worries just vanish... and when I have completed a painting I feel like a part of me will remain when I am gone."


Additional links:

My fine art prints, postcarts, posters, prints on canvas are for sale on Fine Art America :
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