I exited the plane and walked through the Hanoi airport. One Caucasian, five footnine, bright blonde haired girl towering over a sea of Vietnamese people, was,apparently, quite the sight to see. Every single eye in the room was staringdirectly at me without concern of appearing rude. I followed the flow ofpeople, past a sign that said “Baggage Direction Follow”. I came to a halt at a crowded mob ofpushy people. Small hands clawed at my sides in attempts to get ahead of me inthe pack. Everyone was pushing one another, constantly trying to get ahead ofthe next person, but in an almost casual manner, not aggressive at all. In theUnited States there would have been a neat line, organized by ropes with staffor security officials standing nearby, so this took me by surprise. At first Iwas nervous and intimidated, and people kept cutting me off and shoving meback, but I was in the same place ten minutes later. People who exited theplane ten minutes after me were far ahead of me by now, so I decided to toughenup and plow my way forward, following the path of the small man just in frontof me. There seemed to be no social constraints, and this was not “politeness”as I knew it.
Ilooked at my surroundings. There was litter everywhere, and a thin film of dirtcovered everything. It was not quiet and everyone spoke in an abrupt mannerwith the pitch of a shout. The men and women wore a mixture of clothing from separategenerations, creating a confusing combination; old traditional Vietnamese hatscovered their heads, but new brand name Nike sneakers stood out on their feet.Crooked and discolored teeth protruded from under their lips, as they chattedaway, carrying out their astonishingly loud conversations just inches away fromme. There was no sense of personal space. My eyes wandered around this new andbizarre environment and I looked forward to exploring it.
I worked fromphotos and memories of significant moments and interactions from my trip tocreate a series of black and white images, from portraits to everyday streetscenes, that collectively tell a story of my personal interaction withVietnamese culture. The pieces use a variety of media, but most are done with ascratchboard technique that I have explored over the past semester. Theseexperiments resulted in four large-scale scratch-board pieces which depictedthree different men and one mangled tree, a series of pen and ink small-scaleblack and white drawings on paper of street scenes and unique characteristicsof Vietnam, and a variety of prints and wax scratching describing Vietnamesefacial characteristics.
I experimented with a variety of black and whitematerials such as paints, shellacs, sealants, inks, waxes, and primers in orderto find successful combinations. I found that different combinations of medialeft the image with different feelings. I depicted impersonal memories by usingcombinations that left the image looking muddied and distant, and the moreintimate and memorable experiences with combinations that displayed sharperdetails.
I started bypainting black ink onto the surface of several different types of wood, andusing metal tools to scratch the dry black paint away in an effort to revealthe underlying lightly colored untouched wood. I liked the idea of carving ortaking away to create an image, and I responded to the energy I created withthe carving marks.
I decided to takethis idea further and try to make my own scratchboard by layering a surfacewith a repellant followed by a coating of black or white, and then see where mytrials and errors took me. I coated a slab of Sintra board with differentstreaks of white shellacs and primers, waited for the material to dry, and thenpainted several different kinds of black paints and inks on top of it. I used ametal scratching tool to remove the black medium from the surface of theSintra, revealing the white primer or shellac underneath. I was surprised tofind that none of my tests resulted in complete success as I had imagined theywould.
Iproceeded to repeat this series of tests on many different surfaces and media;different types of cardboard, foam core, white paper, transparency paper, andtracing paper. I tried black acrylic paint, black oil paint, black India ink,black gesso, black clay ink, and black oil pastel. Eventually I discoveredseveral different combinations of media that I felt successfully portrayed mydifferent memories, and I moved on to experiment next with scale, texture,contrast, and line quality.