‘Vietnamese Vision’ on display at the Peter Herdic House

Visitors to The Peter Herdic House, 407 W. Fourth St., will get a peek into the life of a young Vietnamese artist throughout the month of November.

“Vietnamese Vision,” the work of Duyen Nguyen, will be on display throughout Nov. 26. The exhibit is curated by her husband, Jeremiah Johnson. This is her first exhibition.

Nguyen (Eva Johnson) is a self-taught, visionary artist from Vung Tau Province in Vietnam. She has created over 250 works on the floor in her bedroom since she began making art in November 2016.

Jeremiah Johnson is a local visual artist and arts educator at Lycoming College and The Pennsylvania College of Technology.

Nguyen, 23, said she has been interested in art since she was a young girl. She later pursued graphic design in Ho Chi Minh City.

“I loved drawing by hand and making woodcut prints at the university, so I pursued it,” she said.

She primarily creates art from computer and classic papers using various office supplies, pens, ink and watercolors on paper.

“Sometimes I would paint with makeup as well, as art materials are difficult to get in Vung Tau,” she said.

Nguyen’s work mostly depicts humans, plants and animals and she finds her inspiration, she said, in her relationship with Johnson. The two met via Facebook more than two years ago when Nguyen “liked” one of Johnson’s photos. He began a conversation with Nguyen and soon after, they began dating.

“At the time she wasn’t making any artwork, after we decided to start dating she started hand- embroidering a dragon and a bird for us,” said Johnson. “I think it took her four months to finish. Then she started drawing and painting pictures daily after I had come to visit that summer. So I sent her over some good paper and acrylics to work with.”

“Jeremiah gave me the best inspiration in our relationship,” said Nguyen. “That’s why I made more paintings in love.”

When choosing which pieces to place in the exhibition, Johnson said he chose works that he believes will complement the space.

“I imagined the Victorian (Western) idea of Eastern Art and selected paintings and drawings based on the sort of pictures a Victorian might have in their home,” he explained. “Exotic birds and wildlife along with strange slightly unfamiliar Eastern dressed women and symbols.”

The largest work in the show, “Two Lovers,” is a painting across two sheets of paper of two exotic looking peacocks, Lotus flowers and a Koi.

“The birds are representations of our love for each other,” said Johnson. “In Buddhism the lotus flower represents purification and enlightenment. The Koi fish symbolizes the traveling we must do to be together.”

Johnson said Nguyen makes a lot of pictures with two animals which represent couples in love.

“There is a lot of Vietnamese mythology behind many of the symbols she uses in the work,” he explained.

The exhibition at the Peter Herdic House will feature primarily Nguyen’s work and ideas, though there are two paintings and one print that are collaborative pieces between her and Johnson.

“This past summer we worked on many pictures together,” said Johnson. “She would put aside works that she wanted me to finish and I would add colors and images that are familiar to my style.”

Sometimes Johnson would start the pieces and she would finish them.

“We work well together,” he said. “She’s very creative. All of the work she does while sitting in her bed on the floor of her bedroom.”

Nguyen often begins with just a blank piece of paper simply putting lines to paper without looking at anything to draw from and applies color without any formal consideration.

“Sometimes the paintings end up looking more traditional, and other times very expressionistic or a combination of both,” said Johnson. “Her style is both traditional and modern.”