Artist Talk: BINH DANH - Yosemite: Mirror Images
Born in Vietnam in 1977, artist Binh Danh and his family fled the country by boat when he was a very small child. Danh was raised in a traditional Vietnamese household where many of the family's Buddhist rituals focused on the worship of ancestors, thus, says Danh, he grew up “meditating on death and its influence on the living.”
In college, Danh invented a unique process for transferring photographic images onto the surfaces of leaves via photosynthesis, yielding what he termed “chlorophyll prints.” On his first return trip to Vietnam in 1999, Danh observed that the tacit memories of the war's devastation were internalized in daily life. In order to articulate his reaction, using tropical leaves serving as canvases, Danh made chlorophyll prints of images of war. Through this work, Danh shares his epiphany that the memory of those people and events will reverberate forever through the country's landscape.
Danh’s current work explores photography’s relationship to memory and landscape with subject matters ranging from the American Civil War to the National Parks.
“This quote by Carl Pope from the Ken Burns PBS series The National Parks: America’s Best Idea sums up my feeling of the Yosemite series,” Danh says:
“My sense is that our special connection with the national parks comes from the fact that we’re a nation of immigrants. We’re a nation of people for whom this is not our home, and the national parks are what anchor and root us on this continent. They are the meaning of home for many of us. They’re what it means to be an American, to inhabit this continent. It’s at the end of the immigrant experience, and they’re what take you and say, ‘Now I am an American.’”
Binh Danh is an Assistant Professor at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, Arizona State University.