Instructor receives Minnesota State Artist Initiative Grant for photography project entitled 'Desire'

Instructor receives Minnesota State Artist Initiative Grant for photography project entitled 'Desire'

February 12, 2018

Anoka-Ramsey Community College Art Instructor Pao Her was selected as a recipient of a 2018 Minnesota State Artist Initiative grant for $10,000, to support her work in photography.

Her, who was born in Laos and raised in Saint Paul, Minn., teaches photography classes at Anoka-Ramsey. She plans to use the grant to complete a photography project entitled “Desire.”

“This started out as a very personal project, when I was sort of thinking about desire—not necessarily the idea of desire as it relates to love, but in a different context,” said Her. “I’m thinking about desire in a broader sense, as the idea of desire in a community and the desire of a transplanted community.”

Her is a refugee, with experience living in the refugee camps in Thailand, and she has focused this project on the Hmong community in the Twin Cities and the suburbs. She said she’s been able to capture the experiences of a variety of people with different perspectives, such as those who fled Laos, the elderly who want to return to their home country, and those in her own generation.   

“This project explores three prongs of desire: the desire to be desired, the desire to be recognized, and the desire to belong,” said Her. “Using those three prongs, I’ve been able to make photographs that communicate these ideas.”

As a Hmong-American, Her said the project has enabled her to confront some of the issues facing the Hmong and other Hmong-Americans. “Within the project, I’ve also attempted to answer the questions, ‘What does it mean to have dual identities? Where do we belong in that spectrum of the communities?’”

She has been working on this project for the last six years. With the support of the grant, she will be able to finish the photography project, print the photographs and produce a gallery exhibit. She plans to hold the debut exhibition early in 2019, with an artist talk to follow.

Her holds a Bachelor in Fine Arts degree in Photography from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and a Master in Fine Arts degree in Photography from the Yale University School of Art. She received a Jerome Fellowship for Emerging Artists in 2013 and was awarded Initiative Grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board in 2009 and 2012. She also received an Alice Kimball Fellowship in 2012. 

Her’s work has been featured in solo exhibitions for many galleries, including the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Franklin Artworks, the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum and the Center for Hmong Studies. Her’s photographs have also been featured in group shows at the Telemark Art Center in Skein, Norway, the Minnesota Museum of Art in Saint Paul, the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, and the Camera Club of New York in New York City, as well as in galleries in New York and Los Angeles.