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Vietnamese activists to protest art show

February 17, 2009 |  5:10 pm


(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

“Thu Duc, Viet Nam” (2008)
by Brian Doan

Vietnamese American activists plan to protest an art exhibit at Cypress College on Wednesday that shows a photograph they said is disrespectful to their experiences as political refugees.

The offending photo, by Vietnamese American artist Brian Doan, shows a young woman wearing a red tank top with a yellow star -– the color of Vietnam's official flag -- sitting next to a small bust of former communist leader Ho Chi Minh.

Doan said the work is a commentary on the youth of Vietnam who grew up there after the Vietnam War.

But the communist symbols in the piece enraged many Vietnamese Americans. Hundreds protested when the photograph was shown in a Santa Ana exhibit in January.

A similar photograph appeared at Cypress College this month as part of Doan's portrait series called "The Vietnamese."

Since then, activists have urged Doan and college officials to remove the photograph because it "hurt the feelings of refugees," said Lac Tan Nguyen, president of the Vietnamese American Community of Southern California.

"Can the school do something to help our community live in peace?" Nguyen said during a meeting with college officials today.

Doan and college officials have repeatedly declined to take the photograph down, citing freedom of expression.

"If we were to stifle everything we don't agree with, we wouldn't have the country we have right now," said Michael J. Kasler, Cypress College president.

Kasler suggested that the college work with members of the Vietnamese community to have seminars and exhibits to teach students about personal experiences during the Vietnam War.

--My-Thuan Tran