Donut (W)hole

Discover artwork by Phung Huynh that pays homage to the Cambodian immigrant and Cambodian American (Khmerican), the aftermath of warfare and genocide, and stories of survival.

About the artist:
Phung Huynh is a Los Angeles-based artist and educator whose practice includes drawing, painting, public art, and community engagement. Her work explores cultural perception and representation. Huynh challenges beauty standards by constructing images of the Asian female body vis-à- vis plastic surgery to unpack how contemporary cosmetic surgery can whitewash cultural and racial identity. Her work of drawings on pink donut boxes explores the complexities of assimilation and cultural negotiation among Cambodian and Vietnamese refugees who have resettled in the United States.

Hoa Bang Huynh, Phung Huynh, 2021, From the collection of: Self Help Graphics & Art
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Phung Huynh, Phung Huynh, 2021, From the collection of: Self Help Graphics & Art
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"For a very long time I’ve always wanted to make work about my family’s journey and how they resettled here as refugees, but it took a long time for me to figure out how to do it because it’s so important to me and I want to honor my family in the right way. It took 20 years for me to do it. I think a lot of it had to do with me being othered." - Phung Huynh

Michelle Sou, Phung Huynh, 2021, From the collection of: Self Help Graphics & Art
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Michelle Sou Donut Box, Phung Huynh, 2021, From the collection of: Self Help Graphics & Art
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"The donut shop has always been more than our livelihood - it is where our lives happened. Where most summer afternoons were spent. Where we returned from family weddings and birthday parties at the end of the night. For some years, where we had Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. It's more of a childhood home than the actual home we've lived in since I was a toddler, as my parents purchased the shop when they got married over 30 years ago." - Michelle Sou, Olympic Donuts #11, East Los, CA

The exhibition is also a celebration of the Cambodian stories told through the lens of "Donut Kids," first and second generation Khmericans who grew up in their family's donut shop. Close to 90% of California’s donut shops are mom-and-pop businesses run by Cambodian immigrants or Cambodian Americans (Khmericans). The trend that links pink boxes with donuts can be traced back to the Khmerican donut ecosystem.

Dorothy Chow (2021) by Phung HuynhSelf Help Graphics & Art

Ratana Kim (2021) by Phung HuynhSelf Help Graphics & Art

Monica Khun (2021) by Phung HuynhSelf Help Graphics & Art

Andrew Hean (2021) by Phung HuynhSelf Help Graphics & Art

Chamreon Eng (2021) by Phung HuynhSelf Help Graphics & Art

These donut shops represent a cultural space where refugees and immigrants reshape their lives in the process of negotiating, assimilating, and becoming American.

Dorothy Chow Donut Box, Phung Huynh, 2021, From the collection of: Self Help Graphics & Art
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Michelle Sou Donut Box, Phung Huynh, 2021, From the collection of: Self Help Graphics & Art
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Monica Khun Donut Box, Phung Huynh, 2021, From the collection of: Self Help Graphics & Art
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Ratana Kim Donut Box, Phung Huynh, 2021, From the collection of: Self Help Graphics & Art
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Andrew Hean Donut Box, Phung Huynh, 2021, From the collection of: Self Help Graphics & Art
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Emily Taing Donut Box, Phung Huynh, 2021, From the collection of: Self Help Graphics & Art
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Informed by her family’s refugee history and inspired by personal research and interviews with Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees, the drawings on pink donut boxes unpack the complexities of immigration, displacement, and cultural assimilation within Southeast Asian communities. Each donut box drawing is meant to be a sensitive portrayal of a unique personal story.

Mayly Tao (2021) by Phung HuynhSelf Help Graphics & Art

Mayly Tao (2021)

Her uncle, Ted Ngoy, is the well-known "Donut King." He sponsored Cambodian families to the United States, helping create a community of businesses by leasing his donut shops to the Cambodian Families and gradually developing an empire of donut shops in Southern California. 

Rithy Panh (2021) by Phung HuynhSelf Help Graphics & Art

Rithy Panh (2021)

Rithy Panh is a Cambodian award-winning documentary film director and screenwriter whose films focus on the Khmer Rouge regime and its atrocities. His family was expelled from Phnom Penh in 1975 and held at a remote labor camp in Cambodia.

Viet Thanh Nguyen (2021) by Phung HuynhSelf Help Graphics & Art

Viet Thanh Nguyen (2021)

Viet Thanh Nguyen came to the United States as a refugee in 1975 with his family and initially settled in Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. He is a University Professor, Aerol Arnold Chair of English, and a Pulitzer Prize winner for his book The Sympathizer.

Kosal Khiev (2021) by Phung HuynhSelf Help Graphics & Art

Kosal Khiev (2021)

Kosal Khiev, a Spoken Word Poet and tattoo artist, was born to Cambodian parents and escaped genocide when he was a baby. In 2012, Kosal represented Cambodia at the Olympic Games in London as a Cultural Olympian. His life and journey were documented in the film "Cambodian Son".

Vann Nath (2021) by Phung HuynhSelf Help Graphics & Art

Vann Nath (2021)

Vann Nath was a Cambodian artist, one of seven known adult survivors of S-21 camp, where 20,000 Cambodians were tortured and executed during the Khmer Rouge regime. His survival, in part, was due to his artistic skills and made to paint and make sculpture portraits of Pol Pot.

Ann Le (2021) by Phung HuynhSelf Help Graphics & Art

Ann Le (2021)

After the fall of Saigon in 1975, thousands of refugees from South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos arrived at Camp Pendleton. Anne Le, featured in this drawing, was born in San Diego, where the camp is located.

The following series of prints highlights words customers see upon entering a donut shop: Play Lotto Here or Cash Only. Sold Out holds a double entendre; the selling out of a favorite donut or one's cultural identity to become Americanized.

Vai Nom, Phung Huynh, 2021, From the collection of: Self Help Graphics & Art
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Open 24 Hours, Phung Huynh, 2021, From the collection of: Self Help Graphics & Art
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Sold Out, Phung Huynh, 2021, From the collection of: Self Help Graphics & Art
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Play Lotto Here, Phung Huynh, 2021, From the collection of: Self Help Graphics & Art
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Cash Only, Phung Huynh, 2021, From the collection of: Self Help Graphics & Art
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Listen to the artist, Phung Huynh, discuss her artwork and process in the studio.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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