Artist: Pao Houa Her
Venue: Midway Contemporary Art, Minneapolis
Exhibition Title: My grandfather turned into a tiger
Date: February 10 – April 7, 2018
Full gallery of images, press release and link available after the jump.
Images courtesy of Midway Contemporary Art, Minneapolis
Pao Houa Her’s exhibition at Midway, My grandfather turned into a tiger, is comprised of a new series of black and white, color, and lenticular photographs conceived as an installation. Her uses images taken in Minneapolis/St Paul and in Laos, which she has visited several times in recent years. The title of the exhibition arises from family lore about her grandfather’s death during the Vietnam war. After dreaming of her husband leaving her once more the night before she was informed of his death, Her’s grandmother mourned him, telling the universe about their life together; the next morning she found a dead boar on her doorstep. There were sightings of a tiger haunting the village, and every so often the neighbors’ livestock would be left on her doorstep. This story about shapeshifting alludes to the themes of mythology and illusion found throughout the work.
Her’s previous work has largely focused on documentary photography, studio portraiture, and still life. In this newest series, she moves fluidly between many different photographic genres. The works reflect Her’s interest in photo manipulation and the idea of the constructed image. She makes slight adjustments — stitching, doubling, and mirroring — or breaks the images apart to create a three-dimensional effect in the lenticulars. She also turns her camera on the notion of constructed environments, such as studio sets or conservatories.
Her mixes and combines images that range from a Laos plain littered with ancient large stone jars associated with burial sites and portraits of elderly men and women to empty studio backdrops and kitsch plastic flowers. The images live together but can function separately; they combine to form part of the Hmong American narrative. Like any history, this larger story is not based on a single straightforward account. Her’s interest in folkloric narrative aligns with her views of photography: “I don’t think of photography as just memory. For me photography is never real. It’s fiction. Photography is selected memory.”