The DIS…MISS exhibition exposes the vulnerability of anyone who challenges the gender binary: the idea that there are only two genders. If someone is born male, they are expected to be masculine and attracted to females. If someone is born female, expectation is to be feminine and attracted to males.
This exhibition tells us that there are people out there who are born a man, but act feminine. That is fine. Born as a woman but act masculine? That’s fine too. Become a woman or a man? Be both? Knock yourself out. Be whoever you want to be. Love whoever you want to be with. You are not alone.
Pink is thought of as a “female” color in the western world. This seems especially true when one walks into the DIS…MISS exhibition, because the Cypress College art gallery has been painted a powerful punching pink. The exhibition’s curator, Anne Bray, aims to “confront stubborn inequalities and stereotypes in our culture” using “videos and images [that] present nuanced imagery and ideas” about gender. With Diss…Miss, Bray, who also directs Freewaves, an organization that exhibits independent new media art, aims to “confront stubborn inequalities and stereotypes in our culture” using “videos and images [that] present nuanced imagery and ideas” about gender.
Bray’s words are the first thing one sees in a wall of bright pink through the entrance doors. The bright pink captures the audiences’ attention and brings them into a safe space where it is okay to share ideas via a wall of post cards, which create indirect and often contradictory conversations.
Thinh Nguyen is an artist who cuts deep and challenges the standard of beauty by releasing his own revelations onto the public.
Thinh Nguyen is a first-generation immigrant from Viet Nam who uses his body and being to create art that exposes racism, social and economic injustices, and addresses gender, sexuality, and identity.
Fearful of a curse, Nguyen’s parents raised him as a girl until the age of 9—at which point his long hair was cut, dresses and dolls were taken away and he was told he was a boy. Struggling to re-create a sense of identity, Nguyen eventually decided that he could give two flying ducks about what other people thought of him.
In Self Imposed, Thinh Nguyen photographed himself wearing an eye and lips cut out of glamour magazines. He then Photoshopped his skin to what he describes as “white perfection.” The image makes it clear that those cutouts of a large green eye with a Caucasian double lid and luscious pouty lips are not his. The skin tone is most definitely not his natural skin tone either.
For this artwork, Nguyen literally Photoshopped himself in real-life to show that standards of beauty have changed cultures, and that contemporary beauty standards are “Eurocentric”—basically white people beauty.
Or, given how many people use plastic surgery these days, a sort of “white plastic beauty”. That kind of plastic? It stays on even after death on the outside of the body.
Almost as if we are walking inside the artist’s body, or perhaps into our own, the pink color of the gallery walls suggests vulnerability, and human fragility. We are all pink and squishy on the inside.