Fr. Martin Lam Nguyen has been an Associate Professor of Painting and Drawing in the Department of Art, Art History and Design at Notre Dame since 1995. He teaches courses in oil painting, watercolor and drawing. This semester he is also teaching an art course for inmates at the Westville Prison. Fr. Martin’s artistic inspirations include technology, the present moment and capturing memories. His most notable works are Mountain Waits, Lucie and The Social Network.
What inspired you to become an Associate Professor of Art? What would you like your students to take away from your class?
As a priest, I think that it [being an art professor] doesn’t really go too far from that identity and practice, which is interior life, interior silence. But more and more I see technology really takes away a lot of the significance of interior life. It takes away the engagement with reality, and it makes the communication stay only on the surface with preconceived bias. I always point out to students that we need to look at things and people and events as they are. I ask students all the time not to tax their minds too much and to look at even a simple photograph with a very fresh examination and record the looking because I think that so often we stop looking. I think it's wonderful to teach students how to look at people in the same class, looking at the same palette and looking at similar photos, and to think about things in wonderful different ways.
What art project are you currently working on?
I work with photographs a lot more, and I collage the interior of worship spaces. It was triggered by my work with an inmate at Westville. I know in general that they are more exposed than I am. And then I look at the Church and I know that I am so veiled. So I work on this project. I just take hundreds of photos of the inside of a worship space and piece them together so that people look at the whole interior space of worship instead of just snap shots. Then next to that I paint the sky outside of the site. I want to make a contrast between the inside and the outside. That empty space of worship is the space for people, for life, for prayer, for joys and sorrows and fears and sins and all of that is just filled in that space, even though I didn't say anything about that. I haven't put them together yet but I have all the images of four sites plus one Buddhist temple. I have two here (in the United States) and three from Bangladesh.