All of my art is created using 100% discarded metals. There are two reasons I’ve decided to go this route. First, my time as an employee at the Philadelphia Zoo has helped open my eyes to the true importance of conservation. Second, when I became serious with my artwork, I took notice of how others treated these materials – worthless scraps, as having little purpose in society. This realization brought back childhood memories growing up in Long Beach, California. You could say I developed a bond with these “purposeless metals”. Through each other, we are showing what we are capable of. I believe I give these materials a chance to become the best versions of themselves…while helping myself to do the same.
As someone still relatively new to the art world, I feel as though I am still evolving as an artist – do we ever really stop evolving? That being said, I experiment with two different forms: sculpture build and taking something that has very distinctive original shapes and giving it a delicate lace pattern. With the ladder, I take steel item and give it the soft, delicate look.
I rarely start a project knowing exactly what I want the end product to look like. Usually, a vision builds in my mind as I find items to build it with. For example, "Steel Mantis" originated from a sprinkler tripod. "American Steel Eagle" came about after I found a commercial valve key - which I used as the perching. "Bench of the Trades" – I found old, heavy square tubing and thought it would make a good frame for a bench. I incorporated the tools and items used in the trades to form a sense of unification between the tradesmen from each skill.
I grew up in Long Beach, California – the first of my family to be born in the United States. My parents had fled Cambodia years earlier in search of a better life for my siblings and me. Long Beach was a challenging place to grow up in during the ‘80s and ‘90s, but it helped me realize that any challenge can be overcome and that hard work is the only way to reach your dreams.
The last step in every project is to weld my signature – five dots that somewhat resemble a dice– onto the piece. These dots, which mainly go unnoticed, pay tribute to my childhood - growing up in Southern California as first generation Cambodians. The dots stand for “100% South East Asian.” Being the first person from my community to do this type of work, I felt as though it was important to develop a brand to represent my community.