Sincerity and authenticity
This story was featured in the July 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art July 2014 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
When Kristan Le’s family fled Vietnam the day Saigon fell in 1975, she was only a small child. Once in America, some of her earliest memories were of watching her father sketch trees and buildings while he took a break from working at the San Diego restaurant he had opened. Le says her love for art began in those moments when her father, who had been an architect in Vietnam, seemed lost “in his own world.”
Le thought about pursuing art in college—she had won a city-wide prize in drawing in high school—but a fine- art career didn’t seem practical at the time. Instead she studied cognitive science and then spent nearly a decade working as a software engineer in Silicon Valley. In 1999, however, she decided to follow her real passion for painting at last. She enrolled at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and later took workshops with Quang Ho and Jove Wang, artists she considers great influences on her work.
These days the Northern California-based Le teaches painting and drawing at her alma mater. But she finds plenty of time to paint in her studio, which is located in Walnut Creek, CA, in a corner of Renditions Art Gallery, which she co-owns. Le is fond of painting in all genres and says that whether it’s a still- life, landscape, or figurative work, her artistic mission is always the same: “to capture the sincerity and authenticity of the moment.”
Inspiration comes in the “craziest forms,” she says. “Sometimes it is as simple as a subject that touches me. Sometimes it is as straightforward as a compositionally strong setting. And sometimes it can be as unexplainable as an out-of- focus image. But I guess the common source of inspiration is that feeling of emotional connection to the subject.”
Since 2008, Le has made regular trips to Vietnam, portraying the streets, people, and way of life in her work. “This is an ongoing project that helps me put back the pieces of my childhood and helps me get closer to understanding my parents’ world and understanding my heritage,” she says. —Bonnie Gangelhoff
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