ARTICLEWhen did you first discover that you wanted to be an artist?
I grew up with a family of intellectuals, in a poor province of Vietnam. My Mother was a teacher, and my father was
the chief editor of a book publisher and a poet. They had 5 children, and I am number 4. My childhood was filled
with a lot of events, and in my parent's eyes I was the hard head and a wild girl.
My Mother was an opened mind woman and my dad dedicated his life to literature. Therefore, my parent's house became a meeting place, a club of poetry, literature and art lovers who loved discussions on everything related to aesthetics.
Leading a hard and reduced life during the war and pre-innovation time did not make my parents stop hosting many meetings of art lovers. Sometimes, my mother and her children shared our meals with those guests and in return; we would be allowed to stay and hear a lot of impressive stories and the conversations, debates about literary arts.
That fantastic life story brought strange feelings to us kids and made a vivid impression in our memories.
Most of the stories quickly became issues that depict strong emotional reactions because everyone wanted to protect their viewpoints. Sometimes we had a hot head guest who preferred to use raw than brain, rather to solve an issue, "however" we did not care as we thought that they all are our guests. While watching and listening to our guests, I would make their portraits like cartoon characters. As I drew them, and was told those paintings were so attractive to everybody; these paintings were my first inspirations.
Dad and his art guests opened the art door for me. In the summer 1976, my dad sent me to the home studio of artist Le Dinh Quy. In the same year, I was qualified to the Intermediate School of Fine Arts (its root is the Indochina Fine Arts College), now called Vietnam Fine Arts University. After qualifying, I was so excited that a rural wild girl like me could be named in a short list of the national most famous College of Fine art.
However, a month later, I received notice that the University did not approve me.
Shortly after, was sent to qualify at the Faculty of Arts. An Art and Culture High School of Thanh Hoa by my father.
My dad was only one who wanted me to get the local education in Thanh Hoa Province. The rest of my family expected me to live and learn in a better environment, a famous Art academy. My sister even advised me how to get the bad results by not fulfilling the test. I would not study in the local art school, so I feared and did not want to lose face again. I had confidence in my abilities, so I completed the test in my own way. I was accepted as special case at the age of 16, I then knew that I was an artist.
1981. After graduating from Art and Culture High School, I worked for the Art ads Company of Thanh Hoa
province; it was an all day job drawing panels, posters, portraits of leaders: Karl Marx, Anghen, Lenin, and Ho Chi
During this hard time, I was trying to gather fabric to be used as a canvas and oil paints (I cut up and boiled my jeans for color pigment) for my creative practice. Sometimes I biked to the studio of the painter/ sculptor Le Dinh Quy and Le Hiep. Their studio was 100m wide, and looked like a store of paintings and statues.
I found a series of Soviet art magazines: Artist Quy and his wife showed me some beautiful works in those magazines. In fact, at that moment, I totally did not understand the beauty of those masterpieces. What I saw inspired me so many that I wanted to take the brush and paint my own works immediately. I said goodbye to Quy and rushed back home and started painting at once. I was afraid that the arousal of my emotions would soon disappear before I could paint.
Earlier 1981, a man came into my life; we have been a happy couple to the present days.
He was a teacher of literature and graduated from Pedagogical College, we met while he was in educational practice.
Since I was young and unruly schoolgirl, many times, my mother often said:
"Maybe in a future, you will marry a teacher who will know how to control you". Those words and thoughts made me hate teachers.
Surprisingly, he was so attractive; I felt his love and his concern for me. My thought was that his incredible love for me was endless.
In mid 1982, I accidentally found out he was pursuing another girl. He was still with me, but I felt something changed within him. There was a distance between us and I was so sad and jealous. My young, enthusiastic innocence almost disappeared.
I suddenly remembered my love of art. I was applying for the Hanoi University of Fine Arts (now the Vietnam Fine Arts University). A friend of mine took me to the artist Pham Viet Song for tutoring. His words encouraged me: "You are sure pass this exam".
Sometimes he returned into my life for quick visits, but I could not hide feelings of jealousy.
I sent a letter asking for a break up, fortunately, my letter never arrived because my close friend held it. She knew my deep love for him.
A few months later a soldier and I were granted to be pass the exam under a condition that our organization or business we worked for would allow us to be art students.
Then I had two choices: learning art in Hanoi for 4 years or staying at Thanh Hoa with my man I loved. I chose to stay at home, and in 1983 I asked him to marry me.
This ultimatum letter forced him decide to get the girl he most loved was me.
The happy ending was our wedding day, until now; I do not know what made him be mine forever.
We began to build a small and warm home. He dedicated his love and care to our small family while my love to him continued to grow. In the year of 1984, we had our first child; he was a devoted father, a great husband. In 1989, our second daughter was born. I left the Art Company of Thanh Hoa and stayed at home, caring children and opened a small shop.
My family business was running well, sometimes lonely; thoughts of painting continued to return. I took out a paintbrush, but as a housewife and also a shop manager, time and opportunity were limited to work as an artist again.
Life of our family was seemingly happy day by day. However, as a sensitive wife, I felt something changed that was threatening my marriage.
I was the breadwinner of my family; then my husband enrolled in an upgrading course of Pedagogical College.
While studying, his friends told him he should devote more time to his small family. His growing neglect made me sad and disappointed for myself. I wanted to do something to seize back his heart.
Like most of women in this world, I knew about Oprah thanks to the news media and Internet. I always loved and
respected individuals, especially phenomenal women who dedicate themselves to make the world better. Life didn't
start out very well for Oprah as did to other women. I saw this, and I painted her many times, it was as if I were
painting a different rose for myself- she was an uplift for my spirit".
One day of September 1997, he came home and handed me a magazine, Sports & Culture Arts. There was an article about an Indian female writer; she was my age and had become a sudden success with her very first novel.
Turning a few more pages, I was impressed by reading about an old man named Le Thi a 78-year-old who painted hundreds of paintings in few months. It was a great surprise for everyone, and soon he was called the phenomenon of Vietnamese Fine Arts. I suddenly woke up and realized that I was still so young to work as an artist.
Immediately, my artistic inspiration arose, biking to my closest friend's house I made my decision: "Tomorrow I will paint again"!!!!! I have painted to the present day.
Since I moved to Hanoi from Thanh Hoa, I had a teacher artist Khuc Van Thong, now he is Vice Director of the University of Hanoi Industrial Fine Arts. He used to come and give advice on art, social life and experiences.
He could see I worried about my own style of painting; I had a unique technique type; he advised me: "You should follow your own style its much better than painting same by those outside artists are doing now" and reminded me a "Good seed makes a good crop".
I will always thank him for the kind, wise words.
To what extent do the changing Vietnamese landscape and past and present changes in Vietnamese culture affect your early work?
We should be out with the old and in with the new. Look forward, not back.
My earlier artworks emphasized the main characters of long-suffering, loneliness, waiting women, and backgrounds
of sad scenes.
Such themes stayed with me throughout my last 12 years.
I am a Vietnamese woman who devoted my life to the love of art painting.
My full love and respect are for the land and people of Vietnam. I think that I was born to paint and to hope that my artworks contribute to the improvement of my national culture.
Currently I am painting on everyday life in urban and rural areas.
Looking at my recent works, most people perhaps cannot see if their author is a man or a woman, though: most of my characters are women.
I'm always looking for new motifs, new visual language to bring something new to viewers, create distinctive,
attractive idea on my canvas.
I try to refresh and develop my artistic with the rich, valuable contents, themes and create a unique expression. My most favorite medium is oil on canvas.
Yes, I think we should have a plan for that.Where does the artist Mai Anh see herself and her art in the future?
I do not paint for promoting myself. I just paint what I love and what I really care and feel interests you.
I need to remain a happy, healthy artist and to keep my personality and myself.
I give guidance and tutoring for some young artists whose styles and works that I like. I also support the Purple Crayon in Santa Barbara who teaches the young how to express themselves throughout Art programs.Where does the artist Mai Anh see herself and her art in the future?
My creative working depends a lot on my health and my business energy.
I'm not sure to anything. I want to leave my work to those who LOVE ART.
I started working with many galleries, and art galleries send inquiries to showing my artwork at their galleries
often, "however" I choose to accept my work only with those who represent whom I am...
I prefer my main Representative gallery is one of art expert and professional.
Currently, I have no thought of looking for a future opportunity to publicize widely my works. You see, in the very big state of California; I only work with Kim Kieler, all of the Kim Kieler Gallery and Kim3.
My promotion and great future publicizing my works are in the hands of Ngan Pho gallery, my exclusive representative in Vietnam.
Social media, Internet, books and art magazines are main supporters and encourage me so much in my art marathon.How do you describe yourself, your artistic journey, and your artistic style?
I am Mai Anh an artist, all I have ever wanted, was to be loved.
I am "a simple woman"