The artists – Anida Yoeu Ali, Amy Lee Sanford, and Linda Saphan – were brought together for the exhibition, called Interlace: Three Artists in the Cambodian Diaspora, by Italian curator Loredana Pazzini-Paracciani.
She said she was fascinated by the artists’ ways of using contemporary art to tell the story of how they fled the Khmer Rouge and resettled abroad.
“They [the artists] do share very personal stories for which I am very grateful, of course, and honored. But at the same time, they also have the ability to speak a very international language, and that is what makes this exhibition successful.”
Cambodians who fled the country or were born in the Cambodian diasporic families faced many challenges finding their true identities because of the cultural and lifestyle differences between their home and host countries.
The works center on a search for identity, a coming to terms with the past and present, and cultural and religious hybridity.
An installation at the exhibit, by Sanford, uses 17 pieces of clay pottery and is titled Full Circle.
“This artwork shows how something can change very quickly in an instant and it reflects on the effort, the energy, and the concentration we require to repair something,” Sanford explained.
“It’s really symbolic for one’s personal journey, for a society, a country, a situation where things change in an instant, and it takes a lot of time to recover from them.”
Saphan’s work called Back Home is also being exhibited at Interlace. This work depicts the experiences of going back home, questioning what is “home” and the search for identity.
“I don’t really look Khmer anymore, and I’m neither Canadian nor French. So, there is like a sense of [being a] global citizen of the world.”
She added that “for this exhibition, it’s really about the idea that being Cambodian is very complex and complicated, and it’s not one narrative or one version that represents everything.”
Pazzini-Paracciani said the exhibition had exceeded her expectations and had been an emotional experience that was very well-received by visitors.