June 2021 Growing Pains

Aunna Moriarty and Vian Nguyen: Growing Pains

A virtual exhibition presented by the Helen S. Smith Gallery June 28 - September 19th

Please enjoy the Virtual Artist Panel Discussion that took place on Wednesday, July 21, 2021. 

Shifting between childhood and adulthood propels an uncovering of information and a new reality, as we become independent thinkers. While ignorance is bliss, knowing can be a burden. 

In Growing Pains, Moriarty and Nguyen explore the weight of generational trauma, guilt, and influence within personal family systems. Through photography, sculpture, and painting, they manifest new interpretations of childhood comfort objects, such as toys, games, and play structures.

Aunna Moriarty's Artist Statement:  

Growing Pains focuses on the cause and effect of family values, hereditary traits, and behavioral patterns. In the process of growing up, we are heavily influenced by thought and behavioral patterns of those who are closest to us. Patterns of addiction, abuse, coping mechanisms, and codependency can create a cycle, passed down from one generation to the next. Modeled by our elders, we adopt mannerisms, certain attitudes towards others, and acceptable ways of expression. In Growing Pains, it is important for me to also address the hereditary mental illnesses that have been passed on through my lineage. Each generation comes with new knowledge, such as improved modern medicine and therapy practices, resulting in new outcomes. Recognizing my own diagnosis, I am fortunate enough to have access to a therapy practice that works for me; but, the generational trauma of my elders who did not have the same access or support is still present and something I carry with me.

By positioning myself to be the photographer, prop stylist, and model, I was able to control and confront my own role within a family system and the weight I carry. Each mini-series, Attachment, Milestones, and Limits allowed me to acknowledge the challenges of breaking the cycle and the privilege of gaining knowledge to separate healthy and unhealthy patterns. Creating a performative space with childhood comfort objects provided the opportunity to investigate how objects take on new meanings as we become independent thinkers.


Vian Nguyen's Artist Statement:

Through anecdotes and memories from my childhood as a female second generation Asian American, I consider my own “growing pains”. Unfolding recollections from my youth continue to make me question the influences from societal norms of the ideal, alongside my family’s guidance for myself to have a life less burdensome as a minority.

Impacted re-examines a widely familiar game from adolescence, the fortune teller origami. The game, made from a folded piece of paper, proposes 4 questions with multiple options for each as an answer and forms a prediction for your future from your answer. In my installation, the quantity of fortune teller origami in Impacted attempts to draw the viewer to scrutinize the game beyond the surface level. If the questions are; Who will you marry? What kind of car will you have? What kind of house will you live in? How many kids will you have?, then the subliminal implications could reflect how society sees young females.

The standard of what young girls should strive for, according to the social structures that we grow up around, does not allow space for larger aspirations at an age where that is most important. While the goals that I held for myself were once bright, opening myself to new perspectives and reflecting on what they mean for me is ultimately the essential process of how I develop my point of views and what I value.

My work in Growing Pains analyzes the structures that influence the development of self within childhood and adulthood through the lightheartedness of creating with common materials and recognizable shapes, which helps cut the bitterness of seeing ourselves switch roles from the child to the adult to the parent

Artist Bios & Galleries

Aunna Moriarty

Based in the Seattle area, Aunna Moriarty is a photographer and model, primarily focusing on fashion and performance art. Influenced by feminine archetypes and mental health issues, Moriarty’s work is often reflective of her own personal narrative as an artist living with Bipolar and OCD.


See more of Aunna's work on her artist's website: https://aunnamoriarty.wixsite.com/amphotography

Vian Nguyen

As a second generation Asian American, Nguyen has been raised with certain ideas for the ideal body image; skin color, size and gender roles. None of these ideals perfectly fit her, nor should they. Her work raises questions about culturally produced ideals and self identity.


See more of Vian's work on her artist’s website: https://www.viannguyenart.com/





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