By Sarah Han, Jan. 26, 2021
From those scuttling to the terminals to those patiently waiting for their flights to those lured by the awestriking color combinations, thousands of passengers were witness to Cal Poly Pomona art lecturer Ann Phong’s abstract artwork showcased at the John Wayne Airport from Dec. 9, 2020 to Jan. 14.
With a passion to raise awareness on global issues through art, Phong’s collection, titled “Environment,” exposes the natural destructions created by human greed.
“Traveling to many places, I saw the beauty in humans and the environment,” Phong said. “But in America, looking back, we are so materialistic. A lot of times, we do things to please ourselves, but we don’t think about the environment. All those little things made me think about how I can communicate that national issue with everyone.”
With the determination to tackle the universal concern, Phong applied for the art program at the John Wayne Airport for an opportunity to showcase a solo exhibition and was crowned as the finalist. Though the exhibit was originally scheduled for July 2020, it was delayed until December due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which she believes was beneficial due to the increased number of travelers during the holiday season.
According to Phong, the airport was a fitting location to spread the message on the ongoing environmental crisis. As travelers viewed her art and understood its meaning, she hoped for them to carry the message along to the countries they visited.
Unlike a standard art exhibition, displaying her artwork at an airport offered a unique experience due to the range of audience and the different pace of the surroundings, she remarked. To grasp the attention of the viewers, Phong shared that the visual elements of the artwork must be captivating and alluring, which is both challenging and exciting.
As an immigrant escaping from Vietnamese communism in 1982, her art is influenced by her life journey with some of her earlier works exploring the experiences of immigrants. After being hired at a dental clinic shortly soon upon her arrival to the United States, she discovered a new talent for orthodontics, leading her to enroll at Cal State Long Beach to study dentistry. Phong, however, grew frustrated with being unable to animate her imaginations through art as she had always aspired.
Determined to pursue her dreams, she transferred to CPP to study fine arts and graduated as the program’s outstanding student of the year in 1992. After completing her master’s degree, she was invited back to campus in 1996 to teach, where she has been working as a lecturer in drawing, painting and fine arts since then.
With a fascination for 3D art, Phong’s mixed media artworks were constructed by blending acrylic paint with various found objects, including old electronic parts, grocery bags and toys. The materials were gathered by recycling unwanted items or donated by her friends.
Along with the importance of visually depicting the message behind the art, Phong dedicated extensive time and effort to ensure the flow of the varying materials.
“I fight with my painting,” she said. “It’s a challenge to make everything talk to each other. It’s like a piece of music. In order for people to listen to the music, it needs rhythm, and fine arts need to have that rhythm within the composition.”
She credits her photographic memory for her ability to capture and store the inspirations she gathers from the news and her surroundings. With this special ability (which she describes as both a blessing and a curse that prevents her mind from resting) Phong is constantly generating ideas during her spare time. When she sits in front of the canvas, she merely allows her hands to translate the concepts into life, she added.
To view Phong’s art collections, visit https://annphongart.com/collections/.
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