This summer found me in an atypical setting — in Hoi An, Vietnam, a town of 120,000 inhabitants on the South China Sea. Alongside NYU Abu Dhabi junior Anna Kurkova, I immersed myself in the local community and created a series of artworks focusing on an anthropological study. Titled "Forty From Afar," the series comprised a total of 40 works on canvas and in watercolor.
Anna and I (both visual arts students at NYUAD) viewed the project as a way to combine our artistic passions with the experience of living in a foreign country. Excited to blend creativity and adventure, we planned and fundraised for the project during the spring 2013 semester. Using an online funding platform, we raised enough money to cover the trip, materials, and the rental of a studio in central Vietnam.
Vietnam was an appealing location. Foreign to us both, naturally beautiful, and full of its own amazing art and culture, it also hosted myriad global influences wrought over years. Vietnam bears the healed scars of the war with America, and still shows signs of the foreign influences from the former USSR and colonial France. It is a country where communism is the official form of government (one of only five such countries in the world), and it contains a roaring, globally integrated economy. Consequently, there exists a tsunami of economic and institutional influences layered over a deep and pervasive culture. In the midst of all this, in the small town of Hoi An, we watched these global forces from the periphery of their impacts and began to better understand how they affect and interact with underlying culture. With this in mind, we set out to use art to document globalization at its fringe.