A Portrait of My Mother by Sam Boi Lee

Sam Boi Lee, Mother’s Pillbox, 2003, lightjet print on Fuji Crystal Archive paper. 20″ x 24″

May 15, 2005 – February 26, 2006

As a cultural history museum, CAM values work by local emerging artists who address the broad scope of our mission in provocative and exploratory ways. Sam Boi Lee’s poignant photographic series about his mother, Binh Tu Phan, operates like a photo-essay told through eloquent images of his mother’s world, from everyday objects that are imbued with his mother’s nurturing strength to his own expressions of loss and love.

As much more than just delicate remembrances, these photographs are as sentimental and ethereal as they are grounded in the realities of his mother’s everyday life —from the fleeting and mundane to moments of great anguish, love, uncertainty, frustration, and enlightenment.

Lee’s A Portrait of My Mother provides museum visitors with glimpses at the connections between the history lessons we teach at CAM and the individual stories that come to shape that history. In the wake of the Fall of Saigon in 1975, Lee’s immediate family strategically split up and fled Vietnam to all parts of the globe. As the son of a P.O.W. and the youngest of nine children, Lee was only six years old when he embarked on this emigration. After multiple migrations, the family finally reunited in Los Angeles ten years later.

By pairing this gripping American story, as told in the museum’s permanent exhibit about immigration, Journeys, alongside Lee’s body of photographs in A Portrait of My Mother, we invite visitors to consider the ways in which ordinary people make history everyday, how we remember our history, and how history shapes our present and our future.