Wing Young Huie: Hidden Fargo in Plain Sight
Opening reception Thursday, May 16, 7 p.m.
Exhibition runs through December 29
While Wing Young Huie’s exhibition of photography, Hidden Fargo in Plain Sight, opens this week at Plains Art Museum, the context of his that work actually spans the course of months and goes far beyond the gallery walls, tying into larger conversations about what–and who–this city really is.
Back in October of last year, Huie, who operates out of the Twin Cities, did a week-long residency at Plains Art Museum. During that time he struck out to find the “hidden” Fargoans that many of us miss, focusing on our growing Kurdish community, and the results will be displayed in this new body of work. But the work didn’t end there, said photographer Ann Arbor Miller, who acted as Huie’s guide and documented his residency (images which will be included in the show). She also observed an unorthodox aspect of his practice: the act of meeting with various groups and leading participants through a process that asks them to really see what’s going on around them, using his catalogue of images as a guide.
“That was my big takeaway,” Miller said. “With his workshops, he was able to create space and time to talk with people about their motivations and perceptions, and how our perceptions are often wrong. It was very powerful to watch.”
Beginning with his breakout work in the mid 90s, Huie’s photography practice has always diverted substantially from the norm. It started in a natural setting–on the sidewalks in his neighborhood–but rather than ship his portraits off to a magazine, Huie did something different. He placed his portraits right where he took them, in public, in front of and for the very people he photographed (you can see his projects over at his website). The results have done more than offer simple documentation. Huie’s projects over the past 20 years have provided a critical basis for discourse and reflection on ethnicity, localities, and socioeconomic imbalance.
That’s a notion that feeds into Huie’s practice of creating a “third place,” a place outside of home and work that acts as a setting for more creative or community-oriented endeavors. Huie’s own Third Place Gallery in Minneapolis regularly hosts artists, musicians, and poets, and Plains Art Museum will create a similar setting in the Starion Gallery where his work will be on display.
Miller also enjoyed the opportunity to observe Huie, an artist she highly respects, in action. She and Huie share a drive for rich narrative with their work, and Miller said her experience with Huie has her looking at projects with a focus toward creating volumes of themed work. She points to a recent series of portraits of flood volunteers as one example of adapting that approach (you can see them here over at Minnesota Public Radio’s website).
“We said, ‘how could we cover the flood differently?’ My original idea was to do simple portraits at Sandbag Central, but I felt it needed another layer,” she said. That extra layer, in true Huie fashion, is the addition of written statements like “flood season is uncertain” on empty sandbags. As the title of Huie’s show suggests, they all point to the way that photography can flesh out the hidden narratives happening beneath the surface of a community.
Images, from top to bottom:
Wing Young Huie speaks in front of his photography. Photo by Ann Arbor Miller. Courtesy of Ann Arbor Miller.
Wing Young Huie, Kurdish Community Center (trust) (time & trust), Moorhead, Minnesota, 2012, C-print. Courtesy of the artist and Plains Art Museum.
Wing Young Huie, Moler Barber College (look good), Fargo, North Dakota, 2012
C-print. Courtesy of the artist and Plains Art Museum.
Wing Young Huie, Captain America, Fargo, North Dakota, 2012, Photograph,
Courtesy of the artist and Plains Art Museum.