"Life defies definition. Attempts to control it will always fail to recognize the sum of all its interdependencies."

Binh Pho was a sophomore majoring in architecture when the Vietnam War ended in Saigon. Refusing to accept the reality of Communism, he attempted his first escape, only to have it end in a re-education camp. After trying again three more times, his day arrived: he and 38 companions reached freedom after seven days in a small boat floating across the Gulf of Siam to Malaysia.

From that day on, Pho began his life again, turning toward wood as a symbol of living things. Piercing and carving a fresh-cut log or piece of timber, he creates negative space in his lathe-turned designs to represent the unseen weight of the unknown.

ARTIST'S STATEMENT

I grew up in the midst of the war. When the "Red Peace" descended upon the land in 1975, I refused to accept the reality of Communism. Six months later, I attempted my first escape to find freedom, but instead, I ended up in a Re-education Camp. I spent one year in there to supposedly get my brain washed. Then, the Communist Government let me back in the city. After that, I tried to escape three more times.

Finally my day had come. On September 29, 1978, my thirty-eight companions and I reached the Freedom Soil after seven days on a small boat floating across the Gulf of Siam to Malaysia. Due to vast numbers of refugees at that time, I spent eight months in a Refuge Camp located on a deserted island outside of Kuala Lumpur.

The date was May 7, 1979, when I was re-united with my family in St. Louis, Missouri, after four of the longest years of my life. Now I reside in Maple Park, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago, where I designed and built a 1,500 square-foot studio next to the house.

From a heavy log of timber to a light, thin vessel, negative spaces interlock with solid surface. The color, grain and natural look of the wood all reflect the principle of Yin and Yang. My work comes from memories, culture, Zen mind and my own thoughts. Negative spaces inspire me, as they represent the unseen weight of the unknown, which I use to take the viewers into my work.

A make-up artist does not only know the script of a play, but also feels the characters that the actor and actresses are portraying. The make-up artist's goal is to express that feeling to the audience.

What do I do? I put a soul into every piece I create. I don’t make objects; I create characters. If the viewers can pick up on that soul, I’ve accomplished it. Creating figurative and abstract imagery on delicately pierced wood vessels opens the doors for me to share my life and interests. There was a period of time that I looked through the window and asked myself the question, "What is it like on the other side of that window?" I then just let my imagination go.

 

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