By Tanner Kent
The Free Press
Wing Young Huie doesn’t do anything halfway. The award-winning Minneapolis photographer focuses almost exclusively on people and portraits. He has spent months, even years, earning the trust necessary to capture such personal and sometimes painfully intimate images. And his exhibitions are ambitiously conceived, often in public spaces and in grand scale.
In 1996, his “Frogtown” project was displayed in an abandoned parking lot in St. Paul’s diverse neighborhood of the same name. His next project, “Lake Street USA,” installed nearly 700 images in store windows, bus stops and on abandoned buildings along Lake Street in Minneapolis. His latest large-scale exhibit, “The University Avenue Project,” documented St. Paul’s diversity along one of its most major thoroughfares also by installing photographs in public spaces -- including a multimedia presentation on a billboard-sized screen.
The Duluth-born youngest son of Chinese immigrants will lecture on his cultural experiences as well as his photography during a pair of presentations on Wednesday at Minnesota State University.
“We’re excited to bring him here,” said Maya Hanson, the MSU senior whose project on Huie for Sachi Sekimoto’s communications disorders course prompted the visit. “His work is a perfect example of how art can be used as a way to make people think differently.”
Huie’s won numerous grants and awards while becoming a popular lecturer -- in part, because of his crossover success in China where his images of minorities, poverty and malaise counteract popular stereotypes of America. The Star Tribune recently referred to Huie as Minnesota’s “unofficial ambassador” to that country because of his now-frequent visits for art installations and cultural talks.
“I’m the only one of my siblings not born in China,” Huie said. “It took me a long time to realize my true ethnocentric self was white.”
For Sekimoto, MSU communications studies instructor, Huie’s visit is an important one for all students -- and especially Asian-American students -- because of the lack of attention given to what is often referred to as the “model” minority.
“I do think Asian-American students get less attention” than other minority and immigrant students, Sekimoto said. “There is this perception that Asians assimilate better because they are smart or because they are very conforming.”