Artist Statement: Bleeding Heart Flowers considers the memory of the Vietnam War and its affective registers. The photo depicts flowers known as bleeding hearts (Lamprocapnos spectabilis), a plant that blooms in the cool of spring with heart-shaped blossoms. The artwork is informed by multivalent meanings of the Vietnamese word thương. While thương can refer to either romantic or platonic love, thương can also generally be used to describe wounds or feeling sorry for someone. In wartime, wounded soldiers were called thương binh. By chance, I took this photo in Chicago on the anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. Hoa Nam (November 2013) is a photo of a multilingual sign from a now-defunct grocery store in the Asia on Argyle district of Uptown, Chicago. The store closed permanently in May 2020 when the owners retired during the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Since ethnic Chinese settlement in the 1970s, the neighborhood has become home to Southeast Asian immigrants and refugees—as well as the nearby West and East African communities. In recent years, this area of Uptown has undergone revitalization while also facing gentrification. This photo was originally taken in 2013, so what it depicts is now history. At the same time, the picture serves as a reminder that loss provides us with an opportunity for emergence.
Artist Bio: Richard Gessert is an interdisciplinary artist based in Chicago, Illinois. Richard’s artwork is informed by his interests in visual culture and design, particularly their cultural and historical milieux. His work has been exhibited by the Chicago Public Library, the Chicago Art Department, Co-Prosperity Sphere (Chicago), Terrain Exhibitions (Chicago), The Art Center Highland Park, the Evanston Art Center, the Rockford Art Museum, the Rockford University Art Gallery, the MINI Museum (Philadelphia), the Critical Mixed-Race Studies Association, the Northern Illinois University Art Museum, the University of Chicago, and Northwestern University’s Dittmar Memorial Gallery. Richard is a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Recently, he was awarded a 2022–23 Fulbright grant to research modern art in Vietnam. Richard’s family history in Vietnam includes South Asian migrants and Amerasians. Instagram: @richard.gessert.