Twin Cities-based artist Pao Houa Her’s new solo exhibition, Paj Quam Ntuj (Flowers of the Sky), will be on display at the Walker Art Center beginning later this month.
Her is well-known for her powerful photographs that focus on the Hmong diaspora in the United States and Laos. and she was recently selected for the Whitney Biennial. Her portrays the lived experiences of her subjects through a mixture of color and black-and-white photography, portraits, landscapes, and still-life, capturing migration, displacement, and resilience.
Her new exhibition focuses on Hmong Americans in the Mount Shasta region of Northern California, which in recent years has become a site for subsistence agriculture and cannabis conservation. Here, Hmong farmers have used their ancestral knowledge to farm the volcanic terrain. The exhibition’s title, Paj Qaum Ntuj, is a Hmong phrase that alludes to the growing of marijuana.
According to the Walker: “Conceived as a multipart installation, the exhibition includes a series of new large-scale lightboxes featuring images of Mount Shasta’s stark landscape. The display of these works mimics strategies of advertising and communicates the luminous allure of a promised land. While people are not visible in any of these photographs, their tools of labor suggest their implicit presence.”
Through her photography, Her also points out the racism, criminal profiling, and violent policing that the Hmong population has experienced in this region. Her’s on-the-ground account lends a counterimage to the media’s depiction of strife, offering an intimate portrait of the Hmong community and exploring Her’s interest in how Hmong language and land intertwine.
The exhibition will be on view from July 28 through January 22, 2023.