Artists in residence share work steeped in rich personal and cultural history.
Posted on September 22, 2023 by Sandra Huffman
Sweet Briar’s collaborative event with the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, VCCA Salons Series, kicked off the 2023-24 season with a presentation to over 50 attendees who gathered in the Pannell Gallery on September 13. The event featured music by Oswald Huỳnh and art by Hollis Hammond, both current Fellows in the VCCA artist residency program.
Oswald Huỳnh, a composer whose works incorporate his Vietnamese heritage shared two musical pieces in his presentation on “Uống nước nhớ nguồn: Music as Heritage.” Both pieces conveyed how Huỳnh navigates Vietnamese aesthetics and tradition, language and translation, and the relationship between heritage and identity.
Huỳnh’s first piece, “Yellow Peril,” was written in 2021 for Fear No Music and the Oregon Bach Festival Composers Symposium. His inspiration for this piece was Vietnamese funeral traditions and Huỳnh’s reflections on the racially motivated killing of Vincent Chin in 1982 and the victims of the Atlanta spa shootings. The climax of the piece features a Vietnamese folk song commonly used in funerals, which is framed by sections evoking the festivities of Vietnamese funerals.
The second piece Huỳnh shared was titled “Gia Đinh,” or family. This work was written in 2021 for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and was the winner of the New England Philharmonic’s 2023 Call-for-Scores. Huỳnh presented this piece as a reflection of intergenerational trauma, cultural inheritance, and what is lost between eras from the lens of the Vietnamese boat people and diaspora.
When asked to comment on the VCCA Salon, he said, “Thanks so much to VCCA for hosting me as a fellow and to the Sweet Briar students, faculty, and community for your curiosity, engagement, and questions. This presentation was a highlight during my short time here in Virginia, and I appreciate the opportunity to share my music.”
Hollis Hammonds is a multimedia artist whose work investigates social issues ranging from economic disparity and state violence to environmental degradation and human-made disasters. During her presentation, she shared selected images and multimedia as she described both her solo work and her collaborations with the poet Sasha West.
Drawing is the basis of everything, according to Hammonds, who explained that one can use it for documenting, writing, thinking, or communicating any idea. A large majority of her work is drawing, while she expresses messages using sculpture, video and other forms of studio art.
One solo piece she shared was Homecoming, a collection of works that reflects her childhood, including a fire that burned her family home to the ground when she was 15 years old. Through this piece, she also represented the idea of consumerist spending habits and the idea of materialistic wealth.
As for her collaborative work, Hammonds said she knew Sasha West prior to 2019, but it was only then that she became aware of her environmentally themed work at a poetry reading. West read her poem “Ode to Fossil Fuel,” which catalogs all the negative and also positive results of the fossil fuel industry on our world. Hammonds said she immediately felt a deep connection to West’s eloquent words. The two quickly formed a collaborative relationship, exploring such issues as climate change and environmental degradation.
“Our individual perspectives on climate change and climate grief are combined to create spaces where viewers are immersed in wreckage and soundtracks of loss. Our collaborative works ask audiences to consider their own contribution to the environmental crisis,” she explained.
Hammonds and West share their creative work with each other to create new collaborative pieces by interweaving Hammonds’ images and West’s text into multimedia installations and exhibitions. Both artists provide a different perspective, with Hammonds focusing on visual art representing an imagined apocalyptic future, while West writes lyrical and moving pieces grounded in a critique of capitalism.
Hammonds encouraged everyone to find someone with whom they could collaborate. She said, in doing so, “You’ll find inspiration that you’d never find on your own.”
The next VCCA Salon will be held October 4. Visiting Fellows for that event will be announced soon. More information can be found here: VCCA Salon Series. These events are FREE and open to the public. If attending, please check in at the guard gate and let them know you are here for the VCCA Salon event. SBC also offers campus wide FREE parking.