THE UNIVERSITY AVENUE PROJECT: A Six-Mile Photographic Inquiry
St. Paul, Minnesota (2006 – 2010)
For three years Huie photographed the dizzying diversity in the St. Paul neighborhoods connected by this major thoroughfare. From old world to developing world to modern world, this jammed stretch of storefronts, big box retailers, blue-collar neighborhoods, and burgeoning condominium communities—in the midst of one of the highest concentration of international immigrants in the country—collectively reflects the colliding and evolving American experience.
In 2010, in collaboration with Saint Paul Public Art, a six-mile gallery of 500 photographs transformed University Avenue, exhibited in store windows and on buildings. The centerpiece was a spectacular installation site where dual outdoor photographic slide shows were projected nightly on billboard-sized screens in a former car dealership lot, accompanied by prerecorded soundtracks by local musicians.
THE UNIVERSITY AVENUE PROJECT: The Language of Urbanism: A Six-Mile Photographic Inquiry—Volume 1 & 2 (2010) Minnesota Historical Society Press
Minneapolis, Minnesota (2009)
In a collaboration curated by Welles Emerson, Wing conducted a workshop with Interact Center artists, showing photographs from several of his projects, including Lake Street and Frogtown. Over 20 Interact Center artists then responded to his photos, influenced by both the work and the artist who created them. The result is a diverse and exciting collection, including paintings and drawings encompassing the same sense of kinship and compassion found in Huie’s photography.
Since 1996, Interact’s mission to create art that challenges perceptions of disability has opened doors for artists with disabilities and audiences eager to experience their work, who might never have seen the arts as a life choice, but who now see the arts as essential to their humanity. With over 125 artists working in theater and/or studio arts, Interact is multi-cultural, intergenerational, and embraces the entire spectrum of disability labels.
Inside The Springs
The Springs, California (2007)
Sonoma, California is a wealthy wine community known for its five-star restaurants and hotels. On the other side of the tracks, so to speak, is The Springs, a blue-collar area with a large Latino migrant community, many of who work in the regional vineyards and in the service industries in Sonoma. Huie spent a month photographing The Springs, and in collaboration with the Sonoma Community Center, installed a one-mile public exhibition of 100 photographs in windows and sides of buildings along The Springs’ main street.
Memory & Aging
Milwaukee, Wisconsin (2007)
Huie photographed individuals with dementia with their families and support communities during a three-month residency with the Center on Age & Community in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Minneapolis, Minnesota (2006)
One of my first memories of waiting was in the checkout line at the corner grocery store a block from our house in Duluth. I was maybe seven. I remember standing there, as I had done before, but this time it was as though I was watching myself, and that my sense of self disappeared, or was diminished. Surrounded by people, I felt suspended between being a part of something and being an observer.
In my early twenties, when I started thinking seriously about photography, I would drive around the city and watch people do the everyday things that people do, and wonder how I was going to capture it all. From the safety of my car I wished that I could be like the invisible angel in the movie ‘Wings of Desire’, but with a camera, getting close-ups of the human spectacle.
“A Mighty Fortress” Far From Lake Wobegon
Who is more Minnesotan than Lutherans? The cliché seems to be true, but it may not be what you think. In collaboration with Allison Adrian, an ethnomusicologist who recorded non-English Lutheran hymns, using music as a lens to analyze changes in Lutheran ethnicity, Huie photographed 20 Lutheran services comprised of immigrant congregations, including Tanzanian, Hmong, Sudanese, Liberian, Oromo, Amhara, Latino, Anuak, Khmer, Latvian, Cambodian, Lao, and Chinese.
This project focuses on a dozen adoptive families in the Twin Cities that collectively reflect a host of complex, cultural realities.
Looking For Asian America: An Ethnocentric Tour
United State of America (2001 – 2002)
From one of the United States' most diverse areas (Hilo, Hawaii) to its least (Slope, North Dakota), Huie and his wife Tara spent nine months traveling through 39 states on an "ethnocentric" tour of their homeland. Some of the sights include a Vietnamese Elvis, a Hmong enclave in rural North Carolina, a meditating Falun Gong protestor in front of the Washington Monument, a bubble tea valley girl, ABCs (American-born Chinese), FOAs (fresh-off-the-airplane), and a self-described red-neck Chinese restaurant owner near the Okefenokee Swamp. The result is an idiosyncratic and personal odyssey through an America where Asians, particularly Chinese, happen to be in the majority.
I am the youngest of six and the only child not born in China. For most of my life I've looked at my own Chinese-ness through a white, middle-class prism. Outside of my family, people who looked like me were hard to find in Duluth, Minnesota, or in the popular culture I embraced. My mom made me pray to Buddha every New Year, but it was Jesus Christ Superstar who became my cultural touchstone. At times my own parents seemed exotic and yes, foreign, to me.
They also became my first photographic subjects. Twenty-five years later I embarked on a nine-month, cross-country odyssey, with a distinct awareness of being a hyphenated American. It was refreshing to look at my home country through my particular bi-focal ethnocentric lens and see the exotic as familiar, and vice-versa. What I found was a place that exists mostly under the prevailing cultural radar, but is as American as Buddha bars, Bruce Lee dolls, and chop suey.
Wing Young Huie
Looking for Asian America: An Ethnocentric Tour by Wing Young Huie (2007) University of Minnesota Press
Schalemar Flying Horse
Minneapolis, Minnesota (2001)
This exhibition of over forty color and black-and-white photographs by Wing documented the daily life of Schalemar Flying Horse, a 15-year-old girl in Minneapolis, over a three-month period. Schalemar lived with her family in the Phillips neighborhood, one of the poorest areas in the Twin Cities and also home to one of the largest urban Native American communities in the nation.
The impetus for this project came from a trip Wing took in 1996 to Graceland, Elvis Presley's home-turned-museum in Tennessee. Wing was intrigued by the idea of focusing a similar amount of attention on a person who was not a celebrity. By photographing Schalemar's interactions with her family, friends, schoolmates and neighbors, a larger, more intimate portrait of a community emerges.
This exhibition also features a single channel video and poetry panels by Schalemar documenting her daily life from her own vantage point. The result is a unique collaboration that provides a revealing portrait of a teenage girl and her world as seen from within and without.
Lake Street USA
Minneapolis, Minnesota (1997 – 2000)
Wing moved to Powderhorn Park, a neighborhood along Minneapolis’s Lake Street and began taking pictures and didn’t stop until four years and twenty thousand frames later, when he displayed 675 photographs in store windows, bus stops, on the sides of buses and abandoned buildings along the six-mile length of the same street. The result was one of the most remarkable public art projects in recent memory.
This epic gallery of images ranging in size from 8 by 12 inches to 8 by 12 feet reflects the dizzying mixture of socio-economic, ethnic, and cultural realities that encompass the dozen disparate neighborhoods connect by this singular street. Accompanying many photos are the words of the people in the pictures talking about their lives and neighborhood, excerpted from hundreds of interviews that Huie conducted. This monumental yet accessible exhibition paints a profound, sad, and often humorous and joyful look at the diversity of the American city.
In a comment book placed at a Lake Street coffeehouse, an anonymous person wrote: ‘Where art is not afraid to look into the eyes of us, regular poor folks just living our lives, this art comes down from the pretentious, self-conscious and exclusive upper-class realm and becomes community art, art with a purpose, humane.
“These are the pictures you’ll never see in Nike ads or car ads or perfume ads. These are the majority of Americans picking up their broken identities and trying to scrape together a living, a culture, and identity, a life. Most of the images we see are of advertisements, trying to sell us a euphoria and prestige we could never achieve. We look around us and are disappointed; we struggle but don’t measure up.
“These photos show us, real and valuable just as we are. They are sad because they aren’t the perfect images of others we’re used to seeing. They are empowering for the same reason. Thanks, for these images and a chance to respond. Peace."
Lake Street USA (2001) Ruminator Books Press
(1998 - 1999)
The challenges of increasing diversity in the urban core are felt even more dramatically in rural Minnesota. Many of the newest immigrants— Africans, Southeast Asians, Latinos and eastern Europeans—are refugees of various wars and ensuing conflicts. Through various commissions, Wing has documented how their presence has greatly impacted small towns such as Mountain Lake, St. James, Moorhead and its sister city, Fargo, North Dakota.
One of the projects was the MINNESOTA 2000 Photo Documentation Project, a three-year effort by twelve photographers that produced an archival collection of 360 images and a museum exhibition. The Minnesota Historical Society Press published that work as a book, Minnesota in Our Time. In the forward to Wing’s photographs, George Slade and Robert Silberman wrote:
"The faces may reflect a broad ethnic palette, but the familiar aura of small-town life is palpable in these images, where romances bloom, fire fighters pose in full regalia, churches attract the pious and everyone gets together for a parade."
Wing's homing instinct for community, for the civic glue that holds groups of people together, is expressively present in this work.
Frogtown: Photographs And Conversation In An Urban Neighborhood
St. Paul, Minnesota (1993 -1995)
Wing's first major project was a groundbreaking outdoor installation on a vacant grass lot in Frogtown, one of the oldest neighborhoods in St. Paul and also home to the largest Hmong community in Minnesota. He spent two years photographing residents on the street, in their homes, backyards, at barbecues, on their front porches, at play and during worship.
This unique exhibition was open 24 hours a day and it attracted people to a neighborhood they might not otherwise have visited. In this neighborhood, as in many core urban districts nationwide, incomes are low and the crime rate is high. Huie approached Frogtown citizens as individuals, frankly yet compassionately. His photographs reveal his sense of kinship with them and transmit the sense directly to the viewer.
Frogtown: Photographs and Conversations in an Urban Neighborhood (1996) Minnesota Historical Society Press
Twin Cities, Minnesota (1995)
Black memorabilia or black collectibles are objects—valuable to some and offensive to others—that are representative of how white people have thought of black people. Huie photographed black memorabilia in private collections, at antique stores, Aunt Jemima Syrup bottles at a supermarket, and this lawn ornament in a suburb of Minneapolis.