Trang Le’s series “Threads” at the Ruth Bachofner Gallery at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica is beautiful. Trang Le is a Vietnamese American who lived through the Vietnam War, escaping from Vietnam with her family as a child. In efforts to heal the pain she experienced as a child caught in a war time environment and the renewed memories as a result of the War on Iraq, she painted 11,978 as a way to remember and treasure the lives of all the men and women who fought in the Iraq War and never came back. While this particular painting was not at the show, the same techniques creating the waves, lines, and circles in her series “Threads” are clearly evident. The paintings were presented in a large, brightly lit, open, rectangular room with white walls. As you entered, you immediately saw one of her thread paintings in front of you, and two rectangular wooden frames carefully laced with colored yarn that mirrored many of her paintings.
There were about five paintings in her series called “Threads” and two physically threaded boards. On those wooden boards, she nailed several hundred nails along both edges and weaved the yarn back and forth, from one nail to another. This motion is replicated again in her paintings. Up and down. Back and forth. Smooth, never ending motions. They echo one another. The yarn pieces draw attention to the physicality of the lines, this motion of pulling and stretching. It creates a tension, juxtaposed beside a fluidity. A never ending motion. Repetition. The tight circles present in many of her paintings suggest a need for control, but her waves, while very close together, still seem looser. Le let her lines fall off the edge of the canvas, never restricted by the size of the canvas. They suggest a timelessness. An eternity. A space unknown to the viewer but her lines suggest her strong emotions continue beyond the viewer’s comprehension. The lines represent patience.
I really liked Trang Le’s paintings because her strands seemed to go on forever, winding and turning. I really connected with her when she said she creates these strands in a meditative state and that when she was hurting and needed healing, she would paint these lines. I loved that her paintings are so organic and natural. As simple as they seem, I find myself continuously drawn to her work—whether it is the desire to sit on one of her lines and ride the wave, or create something similar myself. Personally, I was not the biggest fan of her actual wood and yarn threading piece as it didn’t carry the same sophistication and expansiveness as her paintings, and the yarn pieces seemed limited, confined. They seemed to regress to an age when women wove their own blankets, say back in the 1800s. But the paintings, despite carrying that same back and forth motion, take this simple idea to great sophistication.