Diane Severin Nguyen

Closeup of Diane Severin Nguyen looking at the camera

Diane Severin Nguyen was born in 1990 in Carson City, CA and currently lives and works in New York City. The artist earned her BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2013 and her MFA from Bard University in 2020. Nguyen draws material and inspiration for her photography, video, and installation work from an expansive mix of sources including social media feeds, 20th century philosophical writings, and debris sourced from the streets of New York City. In the collision of these intentionally disparate materials the artist mimics the dissonance of online culture and questions old divides between popular and elite, real and fake, repellent and sympathetic.

In her photography Nguyen works improvisationally, staging miniature events and interactions involving materials ranging from toenails to fruit to grass jelly. Fascinated by the challenge of capturing ephemeral processes, the artist photographs materials as they burn, bubble, drip, tear and sink, catching her subjects in the midst of irreversible transformation. Often shooting very close up and with intensely saturated colors, Nguyen purposefully obscures the identity of her objects, hoping to provoke a deeper viewing and empathy.

This on-going tension between alienation and intimacy is central to the artist’s practice. In her video works Nguyen appropriates, remixes and synthesizes divergent cultural materials like Vietnamese folk poetry, anti-war anthems, and “K-Pop” music to mine what is discovered in their difference. In both “Tyrant Star” (2019) and “If Revolution Is A Sickness” (2021), Nguyen develops meaning through the juxtaposition of the performers’ subjectivities and ever-shifting cultural and geographic contexts. Across mediums the artist creates situations where we must reencounter and reevaluate cultural materials we thought we once understood.

“There’s something about being an artist that comes from an inability to just be.”