Trong Gia Nguyen shows off ‘Dogg Days’


Trong Gia Nguyen set up a variety of art pieces at the Jacki Headley Art Gallery earlier last week. Photo credit: Tara Killoran

“Dogg Days,” the latest art exhibition to come to the Jacki Headley Art Gallery, showcases a contemporary artist’s work. Trong Gia Nguyen is a University of South Florida alum with a Master of Fine Arts degree, along with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts from the University of Central Florida. Nguyen has exhibited his work in a wide range of places around the world.

Nguyen is using this politics-centric exhibition to start a conversation about the current political climate we are facing, as he explained it.

“Most of the art pieces are dealing with current issues that range from gun control, to the separation of church and state, to patriotism to nationalism and it’s taking these issues from various different perspectives that we are normally not aware of,” said Nguyen.

Nguyen explains that the works are meant to create a form of discussion with the viewer, to start a dialogue with the viewer so that they are encountered from the visual perspective of the show.

As you walk into the exhibition, the Pledge of Allegiance recited by children can be heard. Nguyen extracted this selection from the Internet, with the words “Under God” removed, and used it in the exhibition.

“It goes back to the pledge’s original format so it was written (by) an ornate minister in 1892 and the words ‘Under god’ were not included in the original,” said Nguyen. “In 1954 as a result during the Cold War when America and Russia were contesting for power… it was more about that kind of conflict than religious devotion.”

The exhibition contains an interactive portion that is comprised of a number of pieces. The first can be encountered as you walk in, a ping-pong table that has been cut in half with a mirror that replicates the other half of the table. The viewer can pick up a ping-pong paddle and play against themselves.

“It’s kind of a playful take on this notion of competition and this notion of self-reflection,” said Nguyen. “Disregard this win or losing, there’s none of that competitive element. Because it’s a mirror you are meant to look on beyond the surface in a way so I kind of view it more of an Extensional mirror then a just literal mirror.”

The main piece of the show is a structure with a door embedded in a wall frame. According to Nguyen, the piece is meant to be walked through.

“So it’s a swinging door that Is essentially a pet door that is the size of a human being. And the pet door where it would normally be on a regular door is reversed. It’s showing this notion of animalism in a term as us as human beings in terms of other beings,”

Prior to the exhibition, Nguyen held a talk with many of the students in the art department where he offered up some advice to an aspiring artist.

“When you are working on any body of work, kind of take it to its finality and don’t worry about its external pressure, all the external comments, all the external criticism,” he said. “Just really follow along with the path of the work and let it lead you in the terms that it wants to be presented, whether that be a painting or a video or a sculpture and just pursue it to its end.”

Trong Gia Nguyen: Dogg Days is currently being shown at the Jacki Headley Art Gallery through Oct 13.

Alex Coba can be reached at [email protected] or @Alexcoba9 on Twitter.