This work, by Khánh H. Lê, comes across as joyful. A smiling woman stands along a shimmering shore and bright green shrubbery. Her umbrella is likely there to block the bright sun in the sky. Lê’s work, however, is suffused with tension, in both its materiality and the source of its composition.
The plastic jewels sparkle as if real, emphasizing the scene’s idyllic nature and belying the traumas of exile. Here, Lê depicts his grandmother, who was separated from Lê and the rest of their family on multiple occasions after the Vietnam War. Working from images found in family albums, digital photographs, and fashion and decoration magazines, Lê explores his family’s experiences as refugees from Vietnam as they sought safety.