Trinh Mai is a California-based, second-generation Vietnamese American visual artist who utilizes a vast breath of natural, traditional, and inherited media that hold histories of their own. She seeks the patience that is consistently offered through inspirational stories of human perseverance, the labor in her meticulous art practice, and the comfort in the beauty that is discovered throughout.
Her interdisciplinary approach is driven by innovative storytelling, and re-imagines personal and inherited memories, family roots, and spiritual connections that alter conceptions of our identities and shared histories. Since receiving her BFA in Pictorial Art from San José State University and furthering her studies at UCLA, Mai has continued exhibiting, and has works taking residence in public and private collections internationally. In addition to exhibiting with well-respected institutions such as the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and the Naples Museum of Art, her passion for intermixing arts and collaboration has inspired her active community involvement. She has served in various roles, including Project Director for the Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association; Course Developer, Visual Arts Instructor, and Collaborator for Community Arts Participation for the Pacific Symphony; and Visual Arts Instructor for engAGE, wherein she teaches drawing and painting to elders to help them document their histories in visual art form. She has also held residencies with the University of California Irvine’s Vietnamese American Oral History Project in bringing a visual arts language to help tell the stories of Vietnamese America; with Community Engagement in partnership with Grand Central Art Center to develop self-reflective visual arts programming for underrepresented communities in Santa Ana; and has partnered with Berkshire Cultural Resource Center at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts to engage the public in conversations that address immigration, detention, deportation, and the poverty, violence, and the injustices that uproot families all over the world, as they look to a life that begins anew. She has also partnered with Harvard University’s Committees on History & Literature and Ethnicity, Migration, Rights (EMR) further expound on how the war in Viet Nam continues to affect generations of Vietnamese Americans in present day.
Her visual art, poetry, and analyses of her work have appeared in various publications including Fast Company Magazine, Princeton Architectural Press (New York, NY), the Journal of Southeast Asian American Education & Advancement (Purdue University), Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society (University of Chicago Press), Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism (Duke University Press), Ruminate Magazine, and the Journal of Contemporary Archival Studies (Yale University). In 2019, she collaborated on a book of art and poetry, Atomic Theory 7: Poems to my Wife and God (Resource Publications), which was listed among The Best Books of Locally Writ in 2020 by The Spokes-man Review (Spokane, WA). Later that year, the Asian American Law Journal (UC Berkeley School of Law) included artwork in its pages for the very first time since its inception in 1993, publishing her work to further expound on the immigration policies that threaten the lives of Asian American communities.
Recognizing the role of art to educate and heal, Mai has exhibited in support of the Friends of Huế Foundation Children's Shelter in Việt Nam and the Angkor Hospital for Children in Cambodia, also shown exhibiting her work at AT&T Park and Union Square to benefit the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation; at Oracle Arena with the Golden State Warriors to aid the Warriors Community Foundation in its mission to support education in the San Francisco Bay Area; and Tahirih Justice Center to advocate for women and child survivors of domestic violence. In 2019, she received the University of Washington’s prestigious Walker-Ames Fellowship, which granted her the privilege to facilitate arts programming for students and marginalized communities that included the residents of Washington State Correctional Facility for Women. In 2022, she received a fellowship from Gonzaga University’s Center for Global Engagement, during which she introduced artwork as a praxis for peace leadership, discussing ways in which these practices of peace can transcend global violence.
Seeking hope within humanity’s incessant struggle in war and hardship, she has partnered with Oceanside Museum of Art, MiraCosta College, Community Engagement, and Bowers Museum in developing fine art projects that engage survivors of war in creating visual narratives of their personal healing experiences. In addition, she has worked with the San Diego Art Institute in producing interactive works that address the injustices that fuel fear and incite conflict within refugee communities, and with the International Rescue Committee Peacemakers (San Diego) in providing refugee youth from Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia with arts education and creative expression in honoring home, heritage, history, and heroism. Her artistic journey has been documented by The Artist Odyssey in the film called Honoring Life: The Work of Trinh Mai, which won the Audience Choice Award for Best Short Film at the 2016 Viet Film Festival.
Mai currently serves a Senior Fellow for The Smith Society, supporting art students from adverse backgrounds at University of California, Santa Cruz; as Community Engagement Partner for Friends of Huế Foundation of San José; and is a member of the Exhibitions and Collections Advisory Committee for Oceanside Museum of Art. Since 2019, she has been partnering with San José Museum of Art, Chopsticks Alley, and the City of San José Office of Cultural Affairs in a project called Hidden Heritages whose aim is to share, amplify, and artistically present stories that reveal the contributions of Vietnamese Americans to San José. Mai continues to visit community organizations as well as leading academic and arts institutions to engage the public in creative storytelling and to speak about her art practice. In doing so, she hopes to help usher us into communal healing, and into an enduring hope that will help us navigate through a devastating world.