DENVERITE ‘Tomorrow is a New Day’: A new art exhibit at McNichols Center shares a message of hope and healing through the lens of a Cambodian proverb
Maggie Donahue January 21, 2022
The art reflects on challenges like physical disability and intergenerational trauma through the lens of a popular Cambodian expression of optimism.
In the center of the city, a new art show aims to project a message of optimism in difficult times.
Curated by Shanna Shelby, a Program Administrator for Denver Arts & Venues, Tomorrow is a New Day is one of the latest art exhibitions at the McNichols Center in Civic Center, a City-operated arts and culture hub. The gallery features block printed works by Cambodian artist Morn Chear and paper cut art by Seattle-based artist Lauren Iida, all displayed around the museum’s lofty third floor exhibit space.
The exhibit’s theme comes from a popular Cambodian proverb: “Tomorrow is a new day” — a message of perseverance in the face of adversity, and optimism for the future. For both Morn and Iida, art has been a way to heal and grow.
Art represents a chance for a better life after a tragic accident for Morn, and a tool for challenging the stigma of disability. Iida’s work is an investigation of the lives of her ancestors who were incarcerated in the Japanese internment camps during WWII, and a process of healing from intergenerational trauma.
Thmey Thmey Media, Phnom Penh, Cambodia Jan 18, 2022
Having lost of both his hands, Morn Chear quickly made a name for himself as a successful artist, despite his physical handicap, but the COVID-19 pandemic has proved a challenging time
SIEM REAP--In 2010, Morn Chear was electrocuted while working. He had dropped out of school in the third grade to earn an income and support his family, but the accident saw both of his arms amputated at the elbow.
Born in Kampot Province, Chear’s newfound disability led him to take jobs that were accessible to him—for a while he worked on a duck farm in Takeo Province and slept in the rice paddy—but eventually, his impairment led him to art, which he found through Epic Arts in Siem Reap Province.
“Arms are the most important thing for every artist, but that does not mean that a person who has no arms cannot be a painter,” he said.
Now 31-years-old, Chear won the gold prize at the White Canvas Cambodia 2021 competition after having established his own style as a black and white block print artist.
“When I became disabled, I looked for skills that I could develop,” he said. “Before, I could work as a construction worker, so I took up drawing, which I love.”
៥ សំនួរជាមួយម្ចាស់ជ័យលាភីកម្មវិធីប្រកួតគំនូរ White Canvas Cambodia 2021
កម្មវិធីប្រកួតប្រជែងគំនូរដែលមានឈ្មោះថា White Canvas Cambodia 2021 រៀបចំឡើងដោយអង្គការជប៉ុន Social Pass សហការជាមួយមូលនិធិវប្បធម៌ខាងកើត (Eastern Culture Foundation) គាំទ្រដោយក្រសួងវប្បធម៌ និងវិចិត្រសិល្បៈនៃព្រះរាជាណាចក្រកម្ពុជា និងស្ថានទូតជប៉ុនប្រចាំប្រទេសកម្ពុជា ត្រូវបានប្រកាសលទ្ធផលជ័យលាភីជាផ្លូវការកាលពីចុងខែវិច្ឆិកាកន្លងទៅថ្មីៗនេះ។ លោក ម៉ន ជា មកពីខេត្តកំពត បច្ចុប្បន្នរស់នៅខេត្តសៀមរាប ជាវិចិត្រករជ័យលាភីពានរង្វាន់មាស (Gold Prize) ដែលជាពានរង្វាន់សម្រាប់ម្ចាស់ជ័យលាភីលេខ១របស់កម្មវិធីប្រកួតប្រជែងស្នាដៃគំនូរឆ្នាំ២០២១នេះក្នុងលក្ខខណ្ឌមនុស្សពេញវ័យ តាមរយៈគំនូរមួយផ្ទាំងដែលមានចំណងជើងជាភាសាអង់គ្លេសថា «Metamorphosis» (មេតាម៉ហ្វូស៊ីស) មានន័យថា «ភាពប្រែប្រួល»។ ខាងក្រោមនេះជាសំនួរសម្ភាសន៍ទាំង៥ជាមួយម្ចាស់ជ័យលាភីពានរង្វាន់ខាងលើ៖
១. តើគំនូរដែលលោកគូរសម្រាប់ White Canvas Cambodia នេះឆ្លុះបញ្ចាំងអំពីអ្វី? មូលហេតុអ្វីជំរុញឲ្យលោកជ្រើសរើសគូរគំនូរមួយផ្ទាំងនេះ?
គំនូរដែលខ្ញុំដាក់ចូលរួម White Canvas Cambodia គឺឆ្លុះបញ្ចាំងអំពីខ្សែជីវិតរបស់ខ្ញុំផ្ទាល់កាលពីខ្ញុំទើបតែពិការដៃ និងពេលបច្ចុប្បន្ននេះ។ អ្នកដែលជំរុញឲ្យខ្ញុំដាក់គំនូរមួយផ្ទាំងនេះ គឺចិត្ត និងគំនិតហើយ និងបេះដូងរបស់ខ្ញុំ ដែលចង់ប្រាប់ទៅអ្នកទស្សនាស្នាដៃសិល្បៈរបស់ខ្ញុំមួយនេះ ឲ្យពួកគាត់ដឹងថាក្រោយពេលខ្ញុំពិការដៃ និងពេលបច្ចុប្បន្ននេះ ខ្ញុំបានឆ្លងកាត់អ្វីខ្លះ? និងមានឧបសគ្គអ្វីខ្លះសម្រាប់ជីវិតរបស់ខ្ញុំ?។
"Cambodianness" Thmey Thmey English
"After two years on a fishing boat, Van Chhovorn managed to flee, returned home and studied art
PHNOM PENH--An art exhibition held in Phnom Penh features the work of a Battambang Province artist inspired by the harsh years he lived through as an illegal fishing-boat worker in the Gulf of Thailand. His goal: to encourage Cambodians like him never to give up hope in life, he said."
What other galleries should we check out?
Sra'Art Studio has been really active with exhibitions. Sa Sa Art Projects is a Cambodian artist-run space dedicated to experimental and critical contemporary art practices. Sa Sa Art focuses on its engagement with Cambodian young artists and art graduates while continuing to build a deeper dialogue with artists in Asia through its creative education programs, exhibitions, residency, and special projects. And there’s been a real move for artists to use local materials in their installations.
The Khmer artists I look up to are Sopheap Pich, Vuth Lyno—especially for their installations and dedication to the local scene at Sra Art Gallery—and Lisa Mam and Peap Tarr, the city’s first active street artists with their Khmer fusion Kiwi KBach illustrative pattern style. Also Tones EDK-DVS, who has a classic school of graffiti style with the funkiest characters depicting everyday life; Bryan Beyung, from massive murals to refined oil works on canvas, figurative to abstract; and Andrew Hem, probably the most well-known street artist of Khmer origin, who portrays people in the most poetic, illustrative atmosphere. Romcheik 5 in Battambang shows a lot of sculptural work; and in Siem Reap there’s Open Studio, Mirage, and Theam's Gallery.