Art collector discusses “Faces of Vietnam”

( Photo / Sarah Mountain )

Humphrey discusses pieces displayed throughout the hall gallery at the IAC.

Ayanna Williams

Staff Writer

The International Arts Center (IAC) on Troy’s campus recently invited Stephen Humphrey, who is both an art collector and attorney based in Athens, Georgia, to showcase his collection of artwork from Vietnam. 

The Faces of Vietnam collection of artwork included a combination of human hair pieces, mosquito netting, Vietnamese woodblock prints, gouache on Do paper, sand and lacquer works. 

“I find Mr. Humphrey’s art interesting because we are always trying to show art that can be multidimensional and reach out to our students,” said Carrie Jaxon, curator for the IAC. 

“We have such a big international community, and we thought this was the perfect opportunity to show some beautiful Vietnamese art.”

Humphrey first gained interest in art by taking art history classes in college. 

“I have always had a (lifelong) interest in painting,” Humphrey said.

“In college, I did not major in art history, but I took an art history class, and it was one of the best history classes I ever took.

“It was an incredible combination of not only art but the history and culture that went along with it. It was a great educational experience,” Humphrey said.

After Humphrey’s experience of taking his first art history class, he went on to take a sequence of more art history classes to further his education on the topic.

Humphrey’s first visit to Vietnam was on a work trip for his job in Washington, D.C.

His goal was to photograph parts of Vietnam that so few Americans get to see. Humphrey also made an effort to meet Vietnamese artists. After every work trip to Vietnam, Humphrey would bring back pieces of artwork. 

The artwork Humphrey collected is from the post reform era in the ’90s. 

Humphrey’s favorite piece shown  in the exhibit was “Mona Lisa Vietnam,” which was created by Nguyen Quang Huy, a Vietnamese contemporary artist. The painting is oil on linen. 

One may look at this piece and only think of it as a woman with a blue face, but “’Mona Lisa Vietnam’ is a very iconic piece because it represents how Vietnam is emerging to be in more contact with the rest of the world,” Humphrey said.

“For example, new things are being added to Vietnamese culture, traditions are disappearing, and if I was going to create a Vietnamese art history textbook, ‘Mona Lisa Vietnam’ would be the cover because it is so iconic.”

During the time Humphrey started collecting, the Vietnamese artists were newly exposed to American influences, and their artwork reflected it. 

“I think it is beautiful. It captures a lot of modernism,” said Rachael Davis, a senior psychology major from Horseheads, New York.

 “It shows the story and history of Vietnam, as well as their cultural beliefs.” 

Not only did the Faces of Vietnam event bring in American audiences, but it also brought in Vietnamese students and faculty looking for something familiar and unique to their culture. 

“I was super excited when I saw the advertisement because it is not much Vietnamese representation around,” said Vinh Hong, a Troy faculty member from Hanoi, Vietnam. 

“When I saw the flyer, I had to come. 

“I am just so excited to see some representation of Vietnam.”

 While the Faces of Vietnam exhibition is now closed, a new selection of art is on the way and there are shows in the IAC’s  larger galleries. 

The International Arts Center is open 7 days a week.  To stay up to date on new exhibits and events call (334) 808-6412 or email to sign up for the IAC newsletter.

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