Those who have been following David Choe’s Instagram no doubt already know about his Igloo Hong Project where artists Aryz, Esao Andrews, James Jean, and El Mac along with Choe spent some time in Cambodia creating public art. The piece seen here entitled Thread of Life was painted by Mac in Phnom Penh of a local Khmer artisan named Moeun Thary, who hand-embroiders traditional Khmer ceremonial garments. He explains that the “mural honors Cambodia’s artists, both contemporary and those lost during the Cambodian genocide of the mid to late 1970s.
Choe adds a narrative of how the mural came to pass – “The sun started to fall while we walked the length of the whole roof. At the end we saw a woman on a mat with glasses using the remaining sunlight to sew the most intricate handmade shawl I’d ever seen. I couldn’t believe the detail, patience and craft involved- all the beauty in the imperfections. I asked her if I could buy it from her when she was finished and my translator explained to me that it was a dying art and that there were only two people left in the city that did this kind of thing by hand now. I felt so honored to witness her making it, I wanted to buy it from her (it takes a month to make each one) as a gift to my mother who really appreciates handmade fabrics and would go crazy over it. She gave me a number and I bought it full price without the normal third world country haggling and we shook on it- good business is when both parties walk away happy and satisfied. My friend Mac was moved enough by this happenstance random encounter, and we all thought how cool it would be if we could paint a huge bright beautiful portrait of her on the side of the building where she actually lives so her family and neighborhood could see it everyday. A true community collaboration, the background would be her intricate traditional Cambodian designs, combined with a portrait of her holding a needle and thread- showing her craft, artistry, and profession. That was our only intent: to create something beautiful that honored this beautiful woman, something to honor her art, her craft and her lifetime of hard work, something to honor the Cambodian people as well as their community and culture. We thought she was the perfect subject, and that’s it, that’s where we were coming from- no agenda. Through battling heat, extreme rain, lost in translation problems with the lift driver, mosquitos, crooked cops, and countless other endeavors, El Mac was able to finish this beautiful portrait of Ms. Thary with a proud noble expression holding up the tool of her craft- a needle and thread, an intricate instrument that is small but holds much power, power to inflict and open wounds just as much as it can heal and close them, power to create a tapestry of woven shapes, colors and cultures, and power to bring us all closer together. That was it: a perfect day, meeting the perfect person, inspiring the perfect artist, to create a perfect mural, in the perfect city.”
Photo credit: The artist & Paco Raterta.
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