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 Wing Young Huie and His Eye for Etnocentricity

Cultural Images and the American Life Experience.

Photographer Wing Young Huie brings his latest exhibit, "9 Months in America: An Ethnocentric Tour" to UMD's Tweed Museum of Art in his native Duluth. The exhibit, which runs through March 27, 2005, features additional photos taken early in his career of his family and surrounding Duluth neighborhoods, as well as commentary and video footage of the tour done by his wife, Tara Simpson Huie.

Tara Simpson Huie and Wing Young Huie

Wing attended UMD in the mid 1970s before transferring to the UM- Twin Cities where he graduated in 1979. Tara studied environmental education at UMD and graduated in 1995.

In creating this most recent project, Wing and Tara traveled through 39 states around the perimeter of the U.S., photographing Asian-American culture and other "hyphenated cultures" and the ways in which they have been interwoven into mainstream America. 

Featuring over 120 images, along with videotaped interviews, each photograph and image allows a personal intrepretation. "I tried not to get in the way," said Wing. "I wanted the viewer to complete the photograph. What people see has more to do with them than the content. For instance, one of the photographs entitled, "Migrant Family," shows a Mennonite family in a motel room. When UMD students saw the photograph, they referred to the family as Amish. That's because there are a lot of Amish families in Minnesota. It's what they know. Every photograph in this show is loaded with cultural images, what you think about one photograph has to do with your life experience, your visual experience and your ethnocentricity."

Left: Year of the Horse Celebration (firecracker residue), Marrero, Louisiana. Center: Miss Congeniality, Chinatown, San Francisco. Right: Falun Gong Protestor, Washinton, D.C. Wing Young Huie, copyright 2001-2002.

Tara accompanied Wing during the nine-month tour. She was the videographer, taping Wing as he took the photographs. After they returned, Tara wrote the commentary that accompanies the work. "My presence changed the dynamics," Tara said. "I'm a white, middle-class female and the whole experience changed because the people Wing photographed were not only responding to a Chinese-American photographer, they were also responding to an inter-racial couple. In some ways it created an emotional charge."

Wing added, "Sometimes, Tara's presence softened the experience. Some people felt safer talking to her than to me."

Wing grew up in Duluth, the youngest of six and the only one not born in Guangdong, China. When he was enrolled in the pre-journalism major at UMD, he studied photography from St. Scholastica's Sister Noemi. Later, he received attention for his photo documentaries exploring the people and places of diverse neighborhoods in Minneapolis/St. Paul. "It took a long time to think of myself as an artist," Wing said. "At one time, I was just a photographer, a journalist telling a story, however, in this group of photographs there are elements of ambiguity, hidden meanings and subtleties. The photos aren't obvious, and that makes it art."

A special section of the Tweed installation of the exhibition presents, for the first time, the earliest of Wing Young Huie's documentary photographs --- those he made of his family and Duluth's legendary Joe Huie's Café.

This exhibition was organized by the Minnesota Museum of American Art, St. Paul.  At the Tweed Museum of Art, the exhibition is funded in part by the John T. and Elizabeth C. Adams Arts Fund of the Duluth-Superior Area Community Foundation, and by the Minnesota State Arts Board through an appropriation from the Minnesota State Legislature and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

For more information about the Tweed Museum of Art, visit

For more information about Huie's work, visit

Written by Cheryl Riana Reitan and Emily McGuigan. Posted Feb 4, 2005

Cheryl Reitan, Publications Director,
NEW RELEASES, UMD media contact, Susan Latto,, 218-726-8830

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