Vy Ngo bears many titles: artist, doctor, wife, mom, first-generation immigrant. For the past two years she’s been working on her most recent art collection: The IN Between. The IN Between is an art exhibit that explores the ideas of immigration and finding acceptance within one’s ethnic heritage, within America, and within oneself.
“The show is based on my life from childhood to adolescence,” Vy shares. “I remember feeling like school and home were these two separate worlds. When I stepped into my home, I was in Vietnam. When I stepped into school, I was in America. And I didn't feel like I fit in either one hundred percent.”
Feeling stuck between two worlds and cultures is a common theme for first-generation immigrants. Often it’s a push and pull, where one is either too much or not enough. As a result, identity becomes a tricky thing to navigate or even define. Vy grew up in rural Pennsylvania, where it felt like her family’s home was an isolated island of Vietnamese culture. Throughout her childhood, Vy dealt with conflicting messages about who she was perceived to be. Eventually, those conflicting messages became a wider definition of what self and identity meant to her.
“Having blended identities really works to our benefit,” Vy believes. “We can celebrate individuality, but we also understand the importance of family, tribe, community, and how we can come together and serve each other. It gives a greater context to our own identity and what we can do.”
Through The IN Between, Vy aims to present her perspective on identity and also the conversation around immigration at large. Immigration has been at the top of our nation’s conscience for a few years now. Our current president shamelessly campaigned for both a Muslim ban and a wall along the Mexican border. These days, it’s near impossible to turn on the news and avoid headlines about the inhumane treatment of immigrants and refugees.
“The timing of the show wasn't intentional. It's just a part of a narrative of my life and in the greater context of America,” shares Vy. “America used to be a symbol of hope and prosperity for people that are suffering worldwide. But we've lost that footing with the current administration.”
Though Vy was born in the United States, her parents were Vietnamese refugees. While she was still in the womb, they made the treacherous trip across the ocean to seek asylum.
“I have no fear of change and it's because of the vast risk my parents took to come here,” Vy asserts. “How could I possibly fear anything? My parents faced life and death for their unborn child. They got on a boat, not knowing where they'll end up, leaving everything they knew in the middle of the night.”
Vy’s fearlessness, strength, and vulnerability are common themes in the exhibit, and one piece that exemplifies this complexity is Go Back to Your Rice Paddies.
“That piece is one of the very first pieces I knew I wanted to paint when I started the series,” Vy recalls. “It’s a beautiful landscape that’s vibrant. It's a double meaning because it’s about me coming home. And acceptance. But it's also a negative thing, because that's what I heard growing up that was very racist and discriminatory.”
As a child hearing these taunts, Vy had never even been to Vietnam or seen rice paddies. The image of “rice paddies” represented a place she didn’t know but was expected to carry with her as evidence of not belonging. Coming back to those feelings as an adult has been a cathartic process for her, one that she’s ready to share with her community.
“The show has been a great way for me to circle back internally and close a lot of loops. It was very healing,” Vy reflects. “My other hope for the show is that we as a country and community can heal in these conversations. Let's heal our trauma first if we're going to move forward and grow. We need to acknowledge the ugly before we can move on.”
To initiate conversation and actionable impact, missfits is partnering with Vy Ngo to present The IN Between: an artist talk and community panel about the past, present, and future of immigration.
While Vy’s exhibit touches on the past and present faces of immigration, it’s important to have a space to talk about the future of immigration. On September 25, missfits is hosting a moderated panel with a focus on the Latinx community.
Join us for an artist talk with Vy and a community panel with members of RAICES, Casa Marianella, and Jolt Texas to discuss immigration from a broad variety of perspectives – artistic, legal, social, and political.
We’ll have a community raffle and 100% of proceeds will go to RAICES. A portion of the artwork sold from the exhibit will also go towards RAICES.
This artist talk and community panel is free and all are welcomed. RSVP here. If you aren’t able to attend, you can keep up with Vy and her work on Instagram.