Artist: Tony Nguyen
Media: Jewelry, Sculpture, Mixed Media, Etc.
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Merlino Gallery
For this week’s artist conversation I talked with Tony Nguyen who put on the exhibition, NEOTENY. Nguyen is currently a sixth year student at Cal State Long Beach. He is an undergraduate student in the metal-smith program at CSULB. Nguyen made it clear that he considers himself a metalsmith and not a blacksmith. He would like to go into the prop making business. Tony Nguyen is of Vietnamese descent which he proudly displays in some of his work. He displays his family’s struggles of coming to America in his work.
The exhibition NEOTENY is comprised of five separate raised platforms with many different items, ranging from jewelry to a metal hand, to small metal figurines. On the first platform, which is located front and center, there is a small toy capsule vending machine with a bunch of toy capsules in the machine as well as on the floor in front of the machine. The catch is that all the toy capsules are empty. On anther platform there is a large black metal hand, a large wrist cuff with eccentric designs on the outside and a fur lining, then on a separate raised platform there is a beautiful sculpture made out of brass and gold colored metals. Another platform displays a necklace with a red and white face, three rings all made with different metals. One of those rings has a large warrior face with a large king-like crown on it. One the platforms in the back has some cool brass sculptures and a mini planter. The platform in the far left corner contains the top half a female mannequin with a necklace draped on it, it also has six similar figurines that are casually standing around.
The main inspiration behind much of the exhibit is Tony Nguyen’s family and his Vietnamese ancestry. Many of the pieces have Vietnamese influence such as the beautiful jewelry. The necklace draped on the female mannequin continued five pendants which are actually bridges. Nguyen says the bridges symbolize the crossing into America and the American way of life. Also, behind the bridge pendants are engravings containing Nguyen’s brothers name. The bridges represent the struggle of taking on new adventures, going to new places and having to assimilate to a new culture or lifestyle.
When I walked into the exhibition NEOTENY, I was immediately fascinated by all the jewelry, as I have always been fond of jewelry. All the jewelry in this exhibition was very well made and had beautiful craftsmanship. The detail on the rings are amazing. My favorite ring was the transformer-looking ring as it had a beautiful look to it. The lines on this ring were amazing and the ring just had so much energy and character to it. Another piece of jewelry I like was the bridge necklace. I especially liked the bridge necklace because I feel that jewelry should be personal and meaningful. The bridges on the necklace represent Nguyen’s family struggles and the engraving of Nguyen’s brothers name gives it even more meaning. I find this awesome because this piece is very meaningful and close to the artist, as well as his family.