Artist’s Statement: “The Passion of Tango through Drawings & Photography” Mong-Lan

In this show, I’m showcasing my most recent tango art. Here, I combine the two media, Japanese pen & ink drawings and photography taken while here in Houston.

In my pen & ink drawings, I try to capture the flow of the tango, the movement during these moments in a dance. The gesture of a certain step, a certain feeling, a certain note of nostalgia, longing, and perhaps love. When couples are dancing their best, I see shapes of two people, dancing as one during these moments in time and space. No moments are ever the same. The only constant is that it is always changing, in the dim light around the dance floor. The soul of the tango, the changing forms, the shifting movements. It has taken me all my life to come to this point of simplicity. And here you see an instant of those years.

My technique has evolved from many years of doing figure drawings of people and nudes. Having lived in Tokyo for five years, I was surrounded by Japanese calligraphy, writing and characters aesthetically drawn, everywhere. Having this around me was amazing. I only understood about half of it, but the fluidity of the writing was impressive, and flowed as easily as dance.

Two people locked in an embrace, dancing. Bodies intertwined. Flowing, on paper, dancing forever.

In my photos, I try to capture the movement, drama, passion, the changing forms and patterns of the nascent Argentine tango community in Houston. I have taken photos of dancers in milongas (places where people dance tango) all over the world, for example in Tokyo, Amsterdam, Paris, Bangkok, Istanbul, New York, San Francisco, and, of course, our beloved Buenos Aires, and am pleased to show you what I’ve taken here.

A moment, once again, but a moment in bursts of color. Time, and its passing. Movement blurred, suggestive, dynamic, shuttering forms of the dance.

I like the idea of exploring the tango by using opposing medias of photography and working manually with pen & ink on paper. Both require discipline of a different sort, one with technology and the other with the hand and eye. Hope you enjoy!  

Art Biography:

Mong-Lan, painter, photographer, poet, writer, Argentine tango dancer and teacher, left her native Vietnam on the last day of the evacuation of Saigon. While still in high school, she received scholarships for three years to attend the Glassell School of Art in Houston. Subsequently, her paintings and photographs have been exhibited for one year at the Capitol House in Washington D.C., for six months at the Dallas Museum of Art, at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, in galleries in the United States, and in public exhibitions in Tokyo, Bangkok, Bali, Buenos Aires and Seoul.

In conjunction with the National Endowment for the Arts, she was the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts' inaugural Visual Artist and Poet in Residence during the month of February 2005. An exhibition of her paintings and photographs, “The World of Mong-Lan,” ran from January -August, 2005. She gave poetry readings, gallery talks and conducted workshops on art and writing at the Dallas Museum of Arts for the general public, at the Dallas Public Library, and creatively talented middle school and high school students in Dallas area arts magnet schools.

A Stegner Fellow in poetry for two years at Stanford University and a Fulbright Fellow in Vietnam, Mong-Lan received her Master of Fine Arts from the University of Arizona. She has taught at the University of Arizona, Stanford University and the University of Maryland in Tokyo.

In her published books, Mong-Lan’s artwork appears most prominently in her most recent and fourth collection of poetry and art, Tango, Tangoing: Poetry & Art. Her pen and ink drawings of tango dancers are a cross between Asian brush calligraphy and Matisse’s drawings of dancers, a mixture between the East and the West. Her other award-winning poetry collections include Song of the Cicadas, Why is the Edge Always Windy?, and Love Poem to Tofu & Other Poems, which includes her pen & ink artwork as well. She has read her poetry and/or given lectures and shown her artwork at scores of universities, festivals, galleries and bookstores in Argentina, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Switzerland, United States, Thailand and Vietnam.