"We will develop and cultivate the liberation of mind by lovingkindness -- make it our vehicle, make it our basis, stabilize it, exercise ourselves in it, and fully perfect it." The Buddha

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Vietnamese artist Lien and other flowers in the dark


Today I would like to introduce you to a talented young Vietnamese artist by the name of Lien. Lien is going to be a future star in the art world.

To convince you of my bold prediction, let me first take you back in time to give you some context and background.

On March 27, 2020, I received a card from my friend Hoa, a staff member at Blue Dragon Children's Foundation, a nonprofit that helps disadvantaged children in Vietnam. It is fast becoming one of my favorite charities.

The card was a painting of a pair of blue wings. Nothing special at first glance. However, something about it made me pause for a moment. It was upon a closer examination that I noticed the brush strokes, deliberate shading, white outlining, and asymmetric watercolor application. Interesting, I thought to myself.

I then sent an email to Hoa. My question was direct: "What is the name of the artist?"

This is Lien's story:

"Lien became deaf after her fever when she was only 2 ... When Blue Dragon met Lien, she could hardly read or write and was bullied at her school. We enrolled her in a sign language class, and after half a year, she made a great improvement in her communication skills. From a timid girl, she confidently got on the stage to make a presentation in sign language. She also loves drawing, so we encouraged her to follow her passion. Lien's never been to an art class, but her painting looks amazing, isn't it?

"Below is a photo taken at our event called Blue Got Talent. Lien did a live painting in 10 minutes and was sharing her ideas behind it. She said that was what she viewed LIFE - vivid, colourful, and so many beautiful things to explore. Many of us cried when listening to her."


Lien explains her painting

Art is subjective. I can be blunt about that fact. But there is a clear difference between liking a painting and appreciating it.

My appreciation for art didn't start until I was in college. I volunteered at a medical center of a major university I was attending. The medical center manages one of the largest art collections in the nation. The purpose of the art collection was for patients to enjoy while they recuperate. It's such a wonderful concept!

The person I was working for in this art program knew everything about each and every one of the art pieces -- some they owned, some on loan from generous benefactors. She didn't only teach me the technical aspects of works of art but also why they are ultimately enjoyable and thus intrinsically valuable.

Because I didn't have much money back then, I started out collecting prints. Then gradually I was able to acquire original paintings. I visited as many art museums as I was able to. When I first saw an actual Vincent van Gogh painting up close -- no glass or rope holding me back -- I nearly cried. I was absolutely mesmerized. Those prints didn't do him justice.

There were embarrassing mistakes I made along the way. For example, one time I was doing a home remodeling project and placed some original art pieces on the floor. I was in another room when I heard multiple clacking sounds made by my toddler son. He's just playing with his toys, I thought to myself. It wasn't until the next day when I discovered he had taken a claw hammer to three paintings! Nothing I could do but hugged my son, explained to him in great detail why he shouldn't do it again, and considered it an expensive education for myself.

What wasn't a mistake was when I commissioned Lien to do a painting for me last month. The idea was completely mine, something I'm sure the charity wasn't used to. After a month of eagerly waiting, below is the painting. It is called "Blooming in the Dark."

"Blooming in the Dark" by Lien

Thanks to Hoa's coordination, the video at the top of this article accompanied the painting. In the video, Lien enthusiastically explains what the painting means to her. I highly suggest you watch it.

Here are three of my thoughts about "Blooming in the Dark":

(1) Immediately I noticed the resemblance to Vincent van Gogh's "Irises." I'm not going to make a bigger deal out of it than it currently is, but it's uncanny considering Lien's lack of formal training. She has tremendous potential. So with more formal art classes, practice, refinement, and exposure, I firmly believe she will be a notable name in the art world in the future. Similar to how quickly Lien learned sign language, her improvement by learning new art techniques will be profound.

(2) The boy in the painting could be me. If I didn't have my parents, and if they weren't loving and kind to me, and if others in my life weren't loving and kind to me, I would be a flower in the dark, soon to wilt and suffer like countless children all around the world are suffering as I type these words.

(3) Lien is a guide and has given you and me a window into something many of us hardly ever see or hear about. She is a star in more ways than one. We think we have stresses in our lives, and surely they are tough, but I can't imagine anything tougher than being a helpless child in the streets who would inevitably be preyed upon by unscrupulous people, not to mention the struggle of finding safe shelter and enough food to eat. To think these are vulnerable kids left to fend for themselves! They are indeed flowers in the dark. All flowers deserve sunlight so they can bloom.

Therefore, I will continue my support of incredible charities like Blue Dragon. When I say "incredible," I don't say so lightly. Founded in 2004 by Michael Brosowski, an Australian teacher, Blue Dragon has helped over 2000 street children, of which 403 children were rescued from their places of slavery. They also rescued 930 people from human trafficking, of which were 527 women in brothels or forced into marriages. These are astounding results, especially considering the funds they have to work with. Furthermore, their value and values can be summed up by the extraordinary work of Vi Duy Do, who has been with Blue Dragon for over 10 years.

If you want to learn more, visit their website, or you can google for their IRS form 990, which I reviewed as well. The money donated were spent on those in need, not on extravagant executive pay, unlike a few popular charities I found out the hard way. As an FYI for tax time, they are a tax deductible 501(c)(3) charity organization. Their Tax Identification Number is 45-3771750.

You should know me by now, but for the sake of transparency, Blue Dragon didn't pay me or even requested I promote them in this article. This article is entirely of my own volition. I am recommending them because I believe in their cause, and I hope you do, too. ๐Ÿ’›

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"Irrigators channel waters; fletchers straighten arrows; carpenters shape wood; the wise master themselves." The Buddha