Cambodian American Phung Huynh is a LA based Artist

Becoming American cannot be painted in broad strokes. It is a personal experience that is complicated, messy, and certainly not easy. Understanding my family’s living history as refugees and inspired by research and interviews with people with a shared history, the series of drawings on pink donut boxes uncover the complex layers of cultural assimilation and forging new identities. It is more than just donuts and pink boxes. It is about being able to tell our own stories before they are told for us. It is about sharing our humanity when we are veiled by inhumanity. – Phung Huynh

Photo Courtesy: KTLA

Phung Huynh creates art that inspires viewers to think about society’s role in forming how we see ourselves and each other. Huynh draws from her heritage of survival and migration as a Vietnam War refugee. Her artworks provide a glimpse into her experience and help investigate the shifting notions of cultural identity in an American setting. These pieces also create empathy in honoring the adaptability and self-preservation achieved by refugees.

Huynh’s current work is informed by her experience as a refugee of Cambodian and Chinese descent from Vietnam. Inspired by her family’s migration story, personal research, and interviews with Cambodian and Vietnamese refugees and immigrants, Huynh makes drawings on pink donut boxes and cross-stitches images of personalized California license plates with unanglicized names. Her work unpacks the complexities of immigration, displacement, and cultural assimilation. Each drawing or cross-stitched piece is meant to be a sensitive portrayal of a unique personal story. Close to 90 percent of California’s donut shops are mom-and-pop businesses run by Cambodian immigrants or Cambodian Americans (Khmericans). The trend that links pink boxes with donuts can be traced back to the Khmerican donut ecosystem.

Photo Courtesy: Moor Park College Reporter

Pink donut boxes serve as visual connections to the donut shops that gave Cambodian refugees an opportunity to build a new life after fleeing genocide. The series of drawings on the pink boxes are sensitive portraits of refugees whose stories exemplify power and perseverance. In the portrait of Fred Rogers, we see a man whose compassion and heart helped new immigrants become American. Corresponding cross stitch license plates reference souvenir keychains, creating inclusivity and an opportunity for all Americans to find their names on these ubiquitous mementos.

Ultimately, Huynh’s work is rooted in the practice to unravel ideas of cultural representations and stereotypes, to challenge how we consume and interpret ethnographic signifiers, and to de-center whiteness in constructing visual and historical narratives. Huynh received her BFA in Illustration from Art Center College of Design, and her MFA in Studio Art from New York University.


Written by John Mark Villafranca

John Mark Villafranca is a Digital Marketing Intern of PS Media Enterprise and a 3rd year Bachelor of Arts in Communication student of Batangas State University ARASOF.


A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization
based in California that advocates
social inclusion of minorities with
Asian heritage though cultural awareness.


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Cambodian American Phung Huynh is a LA based Artist
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