Q&A with Angela Anh Nguyen

We talked to the Los Angeles-based artist about her first solo exhibition, How We Hegemony, at One Grand Gallery in Portland.

Angela Anh Nguyen, How We Hegemony, 2023. Installation view, One Grand Gallery, Portland, OR. Photo: Aaron Wessling/Portland Art Documentation.

Q: What makes you feel powerful?

A: Interesting question! What’s funny is that the term power is so foundational to the narratives of my work but I have never really thought about the power that exudes from the work or even myself. Perhaps in a Foucauldian way the art I make produces useful knowledge to the consumer of art and thus power…that makes me feel pretty powerful I guess? It’s a touchy word for me. I don’t know if I can answer that question really. As much as I read all this text that tells me that power isn’t a bad thing, I don’t think I know what makes me feel powerful and I don’t know if I really want to.

Q: Do you practice counter-hegemony in your daily life, even by accident?

A: Oh, all the time. I think I do it intentionally. The people I surround myself with are always attempting to critique or “dismantle” what we consider to be hegemonic power. But what’s ironic is that I just don’t really feel like counter hegemony is a real thing. In Western culture we are forced to follow social norms and status quos even at our most reactionary, out of left field moments. To organize and counter the powers that oppress us are still inherently hegemonic. We are following some equation, timeline, process, or individual in order to counter it. I love Antonio Gramsci and he has deeply influenced the narratives I tell in my art—but I often question what counter hegemony really means for resistance and how we can develop a societal understanding outside of that practice.

Angela Anh Nguyen, How We Hegemony, 2023. Installation view, One Grand Gallery, Portland, OR. Photo: Aaron Wessling/Portland Art Documentation.

Q: How do you choose your materials?

A: I like to balance the materials I use between the industrial/commercial norms of the tufting industry and local independent businesses I discover on my own. I try to re-invent the sourcing of material in areas I feel need improvement. I’ve noticed that all the external material I source are from local, independent, and domestic businesses. By external I mean the materials you can directly see (the yarn). Those materials are sourced secondhand from local textile artists or domestic yarn producers who raise their own sheep and spin their own yarn.

The internal materials (the material you cannot see, i.e. canvas, adhesive, monks cloth) I use are industrial products used by commercial carpet manufacturers. As I am a self-taught artist, I’ve learned through trial and error. When I was first starting, I was using crafty bad glue and weak secondary cloth to finish the pieces. I’ve succeeded in building relationships with carpet manufacturers in the greater Los Angeles area who have taught me how to commercially finish my rugs. Shoutout Tony at A&G Rugs in Cypress Park Los Angeles. I just bought a 500 pound pallet of liquid adhesive to finish the pieces at the One Grand show. That glue has been the biggest purchase I’ve made since I started tufting and it’s been such a rewarding experience. Those are the norms I want to keep in the practice because it doesn’t need fixing. It works and that is an ode to the norms of commercial carpet manufacturing.

Angela Anh Nguyen, How We Hegemony, 2023. Installation view, One Grand Gallery, Portland, OR. Photo: Aaron Wessling/Portland Art Documentation.
Angela Anh Nguyen, BEAT! UP!, 2023, Maine wool on monks cloth, 11.5 x 7.5 feet. Photo: Aaron Wessling/Portland Art Documentation.

Q: What’s the funniest thing you’ve come across on the internet recently?

A: Donatella VERSACE 💜

Angela Anh Nguyen, How to bend, 2023, secondhand merino, Maine wool, acrylic on monks cloth, 67 x 70 inches. Photo: Aaron Wessling/Portland Art Documentation.

Q: What are you most optimistic about?

A: Oh god your questions are so riveting I’m not even kidding. I’m doing a lot of self reflection right now. I am not an optimistic person. At all. I can’t even answer that and maybe that’s a problem. I can say this: I feel optimistic about what my art means to me. I am satisfied with the work I make and how far I’ve come being a self-taught artist, completely unfamiliar with the art industry. I feel positive about the direction of my practice and I am excited to make more work, perhaps exploring new mediums in the next year. Yet, I’m equally fearful of what those decisions and the future holds for me. How could I not be? 

Angela Anh Nguyen
How We Hegemony
One Grand Gallery
April 7 – May 19, 2023

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