Christina Casci

What would a picture that was partially of Thailand and partially of the United States look like?

Five Thai artists have dreamed up that image and put it on canvas – and starting Thursday at 4 p.m. the Cal Poly community will be able to see their art at the “PAC III: Thai-American Art Exchange 2006.”

“The artists have to leave soon after the opening day,” said Christine Kuper, coordinator of the University Art Gallery. “One of the artists will kick it off though with a presentation.”

The Thai artists that have created art for this show are Vichoke Mukdamanee, Vichai Sithiratn, Saravudth Duangjumpa, Sakchai Uthitho and Montri Sangmusikganon. Each has a different kind of work to bring to the event. Even though many of the artists barely speak English, they wanted to share some insight into their paintings.

Mukdamanee, 53, is the director of art at Silpakorn University in Bangkok, Thailand. Silpakorn is the university that Cal Poly is working with to make the exhibit work. The idea for Mukdamanee’s paintings began as he was flying from Thailand to the United States.

“When you are flying, you feel like you are on the top of the world,” he said. “You can see the light and the atmosphere and feel cool and mysterious.”

“It is interesting to know that I gained a day and when I go back I am going to lose a day,” Mukdamanee said.

The texture in his paintings was a reference to the mountains, he said.

“It is abstract and doesn’t relate directly,” Mukdamanee said. “All the lines I used are from Thai art, but the rest of the painting is in the style of the United States so the two are combined.”

Sithiratn, 59, is a professor of sculpture at Silpakorn. He has been teaching for more than 30 years and plans on retiring next year, he said.

His sculpture has a video that goes with it during the exhibit that will show the process of creating it. Even though it took him about five days to make it, there is a lot of meaning behind the sculpture.

“It is about focusing your mind,” Sithiratn said. “The symbol represented here is very important to a branch of Buddhism.”

The symbol never dies, just like the human’s mind, he added.

“I want people to look at their inner selves,” he said. “Be aware of their own thought.”

Duangjumpa, 54, is also a professor of sculpture at Silpakorn. His creation, which is almost completed, is composed of wall insulation.

“I want to take something that is usually on the inside, and show it on the outside,” Duangjumpa said. “I came up with the ideas after I saw the materials.”

His idea changed many times due to the lack of time and the limited material, he said.

“The sculpture represents the machine, the material and the person,” Duangjumpa said. “It really is a combination of all three things and I want people to see it represented in the work.”

Uthitho, 38, is part of the faculty at Mahasarakham University in Mahasarakham, Thailand. He is the apprentice of Mukdamanee.

His smaller paintings were drawn on his way back to San Luis Obispo from a recent trip to San Francisco.

The two larger paintings and a few smaller ones are a combination of Thai culture and the culture at Cal Poly, he said.

“In one, I assess elephants because that is the symbol for Thailand, it used to be on the flag,” Uthitho said. “Then, I added the stars because they are a part of the American flag.”

He started out using sponges and brushes, but decided to use something different and began using pieces of flip-flops.

Sangmusikganon, 43, is a vice chair at Thaksin University in the Songkhla province in Thailand.

His painting was also a mix of the United States and Thailand, and it represents modes of transportation, he said.

“Thailand uses boats and oars while the U.S. uses horses and walking,” Sangmusikganon said. “I used warm colors for climate in Thailand and cool colors for the nature at Cal Poly.”

The American artist who has been traveling with the group of Thai artists, James Elsinki, is an art professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

He got involved in the program from the beginning, having already acquainted himself with George Jercich, the professor of art, from Cal Poly who started the exchange.

“This is a cross-cultural exchange between Thai, Vietnamese and American artists,” Elsinki said.

Though this event is the second exchange of people, it is the third time swapping art.

“In 2000, they got the funds to exchange people so that they could interact and create something together,” she added.

All the artists said that they love San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly because of the nature and the people.

“I was a little scared before I came to the United States,” Sithiratn said. “Now that I’m here, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.”

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