"Break out the colors, fight the power with art"

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Art activist and UCLA alumna's vibrant works featured in Kerckhoff gallery, promote imagination.    

Art activist and UCLA alumna's vibrant works featured in Kerckhoff gallery, promote imagination.

She sold her first painting when she was 15 years old.

Don’t be confused by the conventional image of a painting, however. UCLA alumna Sahra Nguyen’s art exhibition in Kerckhoff Art Gallery strays from stereotypical mediums.

Using acrylic and spray paint to compose her portraits on canvas, Nguyen’s artwork holds a wide array of images, from raging dinosaurs to images of ethnic diversity. The exhibition will premiere today at 5 p.m. and will continue until Friday.

Also known as “NASH,” Nguyen uses her unconventional painting style to mix imagination with social messages, fusing cultural images and vibrant colors to create a new, stimulating concept. Nguyen has appeared in multiple solo and collaborative art exhibits, and sells and displays her work on her Web site.

“I love using bright, bold colors,” Nguyen said. “For me it’s a way to bring forth my imagination and brighten up the world. The world can often be really mundane, and every time I see color, it brings me back to my innocence and childhood. I see all this dull gray, and I try to infuse my world with more liveliness to remind people that imagination still exists.”

Nguyen’s artistic versatility goes beyond the canvas--she can often be seen performing her own literary works, from creative writing and poetry to scholastic research papers. She even mixes the two styles together, placing words and letters within her paintings.

“We make sure that the artists we feature stand for an issue. Sahra’s works aren’t just abstract like other contemporary artists--she has a cause. Her works are colorful and vibrant, and are acceptable to everyone, not just art aficionados,” said Joanne Danganan, the art series director for the event.

In a self-written statement that will appear at the exhibit, Nguyen said that as a visual artist, she loves making things bright and beautiful.

Whether it’s promoting a strong social message, experimenting with different designs and textures, or capturing the world with a fresh set of paints, she ultimately attempts to stimulate people to break away from mundane days and mundane ways of thinking.

Each of Nguyen’s paintings contains its own story with its own social significance.

One feature at the exhibit is entitled “Terror in the Streets” and displays a monstrous shark bursting out of a sidewalk with a police badge for an eye.

“One phase that I did was on sharks,” Nguyen said. “I was drawing a parallel between sharks and higher police authorities. Sharks immediately give a sense of fear and alarm. … I feel like that’s the same feeling we get when we see a police car rolling down the street. I want to know what kind of culture we live in where the people that protect us make us feel alarmed instead of safer.”

This precise mentality is what made Nguyen stand out as a selection for the Kerkhoff art exhibition.

“Sahra’s work is not only aesthetically pleasing and beautiful, it’s also socially relevant. We loved the combination, since it stands with the Cultural Affairs’ mission. Even though her pictures vary, you’re still feeling that this is all the work of one artist … there’s consistency in her work and vision. It’s cool to get lost in her work that way,” said Margarita Rozenbaoum, the artist relations officer for the Cultural Affairs Commission.

The gallery will feature a wide variety of Nguyen’s work, showing off her visual exploration of color and the versatility of her art. Taking to heart a favorite saying of her parents, “Fight the power!” Nguyen takes a firm role as an art activist in her paintings.

“The world can be grim and dreary,” Nguyen said. “Everything’s so structured in this concrete jungle-- there’s a lot of devastation. It’s disheartening.

“I want people to recognize the vibrancy and color, and to feel renewed and refreshed, infused with some sense of imagination. I want to remind them that the world doesn’t always have to be so grim … the adult imagination is so limited. I want to help people break out of that.”