For her first solo museum exhibition, Minneapolis-based artist Pao Houa Her presents photography and video works that address “the desire to belong, the desire to be recognized, and the desire to be desired” within the Hmong American community. Across the works on view in this exhibition, Her deploys a variety of photographic vernaculars ranging from still lifes of lush fruits and views of the Laotian landscape to candid portraits of friends and family members, snapshots from community gatherings, and appropriated images culled from the Internet. Amid this disparate array of seemingly idealized imagery, she unravels the complex tensions between traditional practices and the contemporary Hmong American experience, placing an emphasis on the politics of gender and sexuality. Through her complex assemblage of images, Her not only maps the shifting nature of identity formations in her community but also upends the conventions of the documentary image. In works that play at the intersection between truth and artifice, Her’s practice reaches beyond mere documentation of her surroundings and moves toward complicating our understanding of diaspora communities in America.
Focus: Pao Houa Her is organized by the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University and curated by Yesomi Umolu, Assistant Curator. Support for this exhibition is provided by the MSU Broad’s general exhibitions fund.