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17_12 Battlecry_640 Riseofyournewleader_640 Iwilltake_640 31_eastwestzest 31_4357952307f70240934a 17_8 28_4259799338d67d86f5a7 13_yl1
'rak'rüm (noun);
the back room of an art gallery
where artists and art lovers hang
I Forgot Pants (from Accents Series), Tam TranTam Tran, I Forgot Pants (from Accents Series),
© Tam Tran
Battle Cry, Tam TranTam Tran, Battle Cry, 2010
© Tam Tran
Rise of Your New Leader, Tam TranTam Tran, Rise of Your New Leader, 2010
© Tam Tran
I Will Take Your Head Off Myself, Tam TranTam Tran, I Will Take Your Head Off Myself,
© Tam Tran
East, West (from Accents Series), Tam TranTam Tran, East, West (from Accents Series),
© Tam Tran
L\'enfant noire (from Accents Series), Tam TranTam Tran,
L'enfant noire (from Accents Series),
© Tam Tran
American Girl (from Accents Series), Tam TranTam Tran, American Girl (from Accents Series),
© Tam Tran
Miss Favela, Tam TranTam Tran, Miss Favela, 2009
© Tam Tran
Dinner Run, Tam TranTam Tran, Dinner Run, 2009
© Tam Tran
Cat Lady, Tam TranTam Tran, Cat Lady, 2009
© Tam Tran
Tam Is Yayoi, Tam TranTam Tran, Tam Is Yayoi,
2013, digital print on giclee paper, 17" x 17"
© courtesy of dnj Gallery
Born 1986 in Hue, Vietnam Lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee According to Tam Tran, she trains her camera on “everything and anything my eyes see and love.” Tran’s series of photographs presents her subjects as multifaceted characters, who explore and experiment with their respective identities by taking on a multitude of personas. In the series Raising Hell (2008), the a...[more]

Interview with Tam Tran

New York, Apr. 2010: Artslant Senior East Coast Editor Trong Nguyen poses a few questions for Memphis-based artist Tam Tran. Tam is the youngest artist (age 23) in this year's Whitney Biennial, and her photographs tell a whimsical and noire story of someone caught between east, west, and south.

Tam Tran, Battle Cry, 2010; Courtesy of the artist

Trong Nguyen: Tell us a bit about your work (Raising Hell) that is in the current Whitney Biennial.

Tam Tran: Raising Hell started as a simple act of recording my nephew’s growth that has evolved into an art project for me and a singular bonding process for the two of us.

TN: How did the process of being included in the biennial happen for you? Was it a complete surprise?

TT: I was invited to be part of the biennial after showing at an exhibition in Memphis. It was a complete surprise since I didn’t think I’d make it into the local show I was in.

Tam Tran, Alice Syndrome (from the Accents series), 2009;  Courtesy of the artist

TN: There is a lot of individual narrative in your photographs, usually beginning with the benign or mundane and ending in some form of distortion or mishap, like the Trouble series. What is the inspiration for these?

TT: Anything can happen at any time. I suppose, the spontaneity of Death’s arrival intrigues me and I want to visually convey that.

TN: You have also been working on a series of self-portraits, which not only involves dressing up, but again utilizes distortion. What made you turn the camera around on yourself, and how do you go about treading that much-traveled territory?

TT: I was curious with what I could do with myself; contorting, transforming, being someone else, but still remaining myself. If I had asked a friend to pose for me, she wouldn’t translate what I wanted to convey since she’s not me. Self-portraiture has been done, but I try not to limit myself just because it’s a beaten path. I discover a piece of myself in every portrait that I take.

TN: Your degree is in journalism. How has that contributed and helped you in your photography? Are you a better storyteller with words or the lens, or both?

TT: I took the design route in journalism which consists of laying out content for newspapers/magazines. I’m no Wordsmith, just a shutter bug that wishes she has lens for eyes.

TN: What's it like being an artist in Memphis? Are you thinking about moving to New York?

TT: I keep to myself a lot. There’s small art scene, but I’m too socially awkward to know. Moving to New York is an idea I flirt with in the back of my mind, but I’m still unsure at the moment.

TN: Are there any good Vietnamese restaurants in Tennessee?

TT: Yeah, at my momma’s!

TN: Have you been back to Vietnam?

TT: I went back once as a teen and the other as a young adult.

Tam Tran, Welcome to Memphis, 2009; Courtesy the artist

TN: Where to and what next?

TT: Working still and I wish to know what’s next myself!

ArtSlant would like to thank Tam Tran for her assistance in making this interview possible.

-- Trong Nguyen


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