The Greater Reston Arts Center (GRACE) is excited to share Day Dreams, an exhibition featuring the work of artist Khánh H. Lê (b. 1981, Long Dinh Vietnam; lives and works in Washington, D.C.). Lê explores his personal and family history in order to carve out a cultural identity for himself. The works in this exhibition are based off of the artist’s family photographs, some of which are now faded. The paintings also incorporate memories of experiences that the artist and his family had in Vietnamese internment camps in the 1980s. Lê uses glitter, plastic craft jewels, and colorful paint to form sparkling moments.
Lê graduated with an MFA from Syracuse University in 2008. His work has been exhibited at the Hunterdon Art Museum, Clinton, New Jersey; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; and Hillyer Art Space, among other locations. Day Dreams is currently on display at the organization’s satellite gallery (GRACE at Signature).
Explore More is a self-guided program for kids and families normally taking place in our gallery. The Home Edition is designed for families to enjoy virtually!
EXPLORE OUR DIGITAL GALLERY FOR INSPIRATION.
ACTIVITY 1: LAYERED MEMORY COLLAGE
Photographs form the base of Khánh Lê’s artwork in this exhibition. Many of these photographs were taken during the artist’s childhood and contain images of his family members. Lê builds upon these photographs by adding paint, glitter, and acrylic gemstones. With these new layers, the artist’s memories begin to shine.
Do you have any special photographs of your family or friends? Would you like to make a layered memory collage? Great! Just follow the steps below.
- You will need: a sheet of paper, a photo (ask a parent if the photo is okay to use or if they can help you to print a copy) OR a memory which you can draw, old magazines or newspapers, colored markers or paints. Lay out your sheet of paper and decide where you want to place your photo. Make sure you ask your parent if they are okay with you using an original photo or if they can print a copy for you. When you are ready, glue down the photo on the paper.
- If you do not have a photo, no problem- you can draw from your memory! Think about a special moment in your life (a school field trip, a family picnic, a concert, a friend’s birthday party) and try to recreate that scene by drawing the people who were there.
- Do you notice how Khánh Lê outlines the figures and fills them in with paint or patterns? You can do the same by carefully tracing the outline of people’s clothing and filling them in with markers or paint. You can also use magazine clippings to cover the clothing to add interesting designs or textures.
ACTIVITY 2: CARDBOARD TUBE PATTERN MAKER
If you look closely, you will notice that several of Khánh Lê’s pieces include repeating patterns with diamonds, hexagons, stars, cubes, and other geometric shapes. These patterns appear on the individual figures, as well as in the background of these images. The artist creates these patterns with gemstones and special templates he cuts out of thick paper.
You can also create fun, repeating patterns to decorate your art with by using just a few materials. To make your cardboard tube pattern maker, just follow the steps below.
You will need: a sheet of paper, a pencil, a cardboard tube (an empty toilet paper or paper towel tube works great!), scissors, and washable tempera paint.
- Take your toilet paper tube and cut in half. If using a paper towel tube, mark every one-inch and then cut these sections so that you have several smaller tubes.
- Now you can make different shapes with your smaller tubes. Experiment with bending and cutting the tube to create shapes. Here are a few ideas:
- Heart: flatten one of the tubes, then un-flatten so that the circle has two creases. Cupping the tube with your hands, push the top crease down into the circle while making the other crease sharper by pressing it between your palms.
- Triangle: crease the top of the tube with your fingers and then pinch the two ends of the round part beneath the top fold and crease both of these folds down.
- Flower: Flatten four small tubes in half and unflatten half way so that they create “petals”; glue or tape the four petals in the center to create a flower.
- When you are ready, grab your sheet of paper and paint. Have fun dipping your cardboard tube stamps into the paint and pressing onto the paper. Repeat your shapes to make fun patterns!
ACTIVITY 3: NATURE’S GLITTER
Khánh Lê’s paintings shimmer and shine! To get this sparkling effect, the artist uses a mix of shiny plastic gemstones and colorful glitter mixed with Mod Podge (a type of glue). Would you like to learn a way to make your artwork shimmer with nature? Wonderful!
You will need: a bottle of liquid glue (clear or white), a container to collect found objects.
- With a parent’s permission, go outside on a nature hunt to look for found objects. If you want your glitter to be colorful, try and find flowers, blades of green grass, leaves, and small pebbles in different shades.
- Bring your found objects back to your workspace. Place a sheet of paper down and make a design on your paper with the glue.
- Next, sprinkle your found nature objects onto the glue design. You may want to break up your objects into smaller pieces (i.e. pluck off petals from your flowers, tear off small pieces from larger leaves) so that they stick to the glue. Once finished, step back and admire nature’s many colored glitter.
Photo credit: Greg Staley