East and West meet

One Art-A-Fair artist uses the universal language of nature to express his emotions when he looks at the world, while another blends the classic pin-up with some modern flair.

July 29, 2010|By Ashley Breeding,
  • Truong Buu Giam's paintings are featured at Art-A-Fair.
Truong Buu Giam's paintings are featured at Art-A-Fair. (Kent Treptow, Coastline…)

In a sea of original paintings, sculpture, jewels and glass, two new artists have managed to give Art-A-Fair a splash of something fresh and creative this season.

Vietnamese American painter Truong Buu Giam brings his "Asian view of the west" through a collection of epoxy-on-aluminum paintings of nature, wild and marine life.

His mixture of vibrant hues, he said, convey the emotions that stir through him when he observes the captivating red rock of Utah, Great Falls of Montana and sea life of La Jolla Cove.

"The subject of nature is an international language, and is the most beautiful thing to present in art," Giam said. "I am not so interested in painting what I see; it's more about what I am feeling at the moment."

The swirls of earth tones with punches of bold color create an almost ethereal feeling for the viewer, much like Giam explains his own experience when he's in nature.


To keep his landscapes focused on "feeling" versus "reality," he paints from memory rather than photographs or in Plein Air.

"These images — and what I feel as I see that sun setting over the mountains or the ocean — stay in my mind and that's what I paint from," he said. "I want to present something new to the world, that hasn't been done before. Style isn't what matters, just beauty and feelings."

A lover of art since early childhood, Giam graduated from the National Ecole Superieure of Fine Arts in Saigon in 1970, where he was known for his watercolors on silk. He joined the South Vietnam navy soon after, where he found time amid fighting communists from the north, to bask in the beauty of the deep blue oceans and transfer these images on canvas.

Now based in Westminster, Giam continues his travels throughout the western United States, where he aims to capture the beauty of natural landscapes.

Nationally renowned and award-winning mixed-media artist, Ralph Burch, also joins the fair for his second year, sharing his 1940s-meets-modern pin-up girl posters.

The retro portraits, which can also be found in galleries and home furnishing stores across the country, pair "tasteful" images of girls with cute slogans and martini glasses, gambling, hot rods, fashion, tattoos and other popular areas of interest.

Inspired by ladies from the 1930s and '40s with their coiffed 'dos, rosy red lips and Betty Boop figures, Burch said he likes to re-create old magazine images with the current times.

"I'm keeping the old style of pin-up alive," he said. "It's the vintage aspect that makes it so popular and it's different from anything else that's being done today. I introduced this [style] in an ad pitch to a publisher and it sort of took off. It really started with the martini series and progressed from there."

Burch's work has also appeared in movies and TV shows like "The Departed" and "My Name is Earl," and his mermaid martini design was inked on a customer during an episode of "LA Ink."

The Chicago native who moved to Southern California in the early 1970s got his start in advertising and marketing before embarking on a solo career as an artist. He works with textiles and product licensing in addition to his pin-ups.

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