The Asian American Resource Center hosts both Meena Matochas’ And the Distance Dissolves into Love and Vy Ngos’ Stranger from Home. Both artists have rediscovered art after years of working and found their artistic process as a cathartic and necessary way of living. The artists shared many similarities in their introduction to art, both focused on portraiture and practiced for entertainment leading up to their college years but found studying for other professions a hindrance to their studio time. Matocha and Ngo sit down to have a conversation about their new works and how art has changed their lives for the better.
“The path to calling yourself an artist is not an easy one”- Vy Ngo
Vy Ngo, second-generation Vietnamese American chose aspiring to be a doctor over a Design/Architect major when entering college leaving little room for creative endeavors. Over twenty years later, she works as a full time pediatrician with a husband and two children, accumulating an ache to paint again to fulfill a dream that was still fueling her subconscious creativity for years. Seeing her fortieth birthday around the corner, she thought it was now or never. Ngo had a strong support system; her husband regularly encouraged her studio hours as he noticed it brought out Ngo’s best self, and her best friend bought Ngo her first canvas, a giant 9’x5’. After being taunted for weeks by the endless possibilities of the daunting white canvas she jumped in and simply put the paint on the canvas.
“It’s almost like the floodgates opened and I couldn’t stop”- Vy Ngo
Matocha lived for ten years as an Indian American expatriate in Xinjiang Province, China, the pivotal location which inspired the works for And the Distance Dissolves into Love, memories from her experiences as a foreigner in a foreign place. She found herself in a very depressed state in China after marriage and having complications with pregnancy. After the miracle of birthing her first child, Matocha had an enlightening experience and saw herself in a new way and accepting who she really was; an artist. This form of acceptance is evident in the works she manifests, rooting back to a memory as a child in elementary school. One day her teacher decided to demonstrate the art of portraiture and randomly selected Matocha to be his muse, the moment he showed the other students the final image shock and awe overcame the other students. “It looks just like you!” the students shrilled, and at this moment she realized what it felt like to be truly seen for the first time. This moment influenced her to seek out the faces of her community in China in order to find the meaning of ‘home’ in the endless connections people make around the world.
“After 4 years of working on this series, I feel I have finally found closer” –Meena Matocha
Vy Ngo conveys both realism in portraiture and abstraction as a method of releasing intuitive energy to translate a memory or feeling. Faces become vital in communication some of the most raw and pure emotions through the adolescence eye. Learning new memories of her parents struggle and bravery in escaping Vietnam while her mother was pregnant fueled her creativity. The act of sharing these stories created a stronger family connection and inspiration for Ngo to communicate through art. When she visited Vietnam in 2003 the archived pictures were a reflection of Ngo search for identification in her homeland and an inspiration for the series Strangers from Home.
“I’m a stranger at home and there are strangers in my home” – Vy Ngo
The idealization of a ‘home’ has caused chaos in these artists lives but through their struggle came inspiration to create art for others to experience and celebrate diversity in culture. Vy Ngo and Meena Matocha found their way back into the art world years after suppressing their creative urges. The Asian American Resource Center brought to light these two hardworking artists who have against all odds dedicated years of artmaking in their home of Austin, Tx.
“If you don’t immediately grab the ideas that float into your brain then that same inspiration will find another vessel”- Vy Ngo
And the Distance Dissolves into Love and Strangers from Home will be on display at the Asian American Resource Center until June 24, 2017.