A$AP Pocky? Wonton Snoop? Asian American artist celebrates culture with pun-based posters

Christina Nguyen was driving and listening to a Gucci Mane tune 1 weekend in 2017 when she caught a glimpse of a Panda Convey indication.

Inspiration struck.

“I was like, wait a minute, would not it be humorous if I combined Gucci Mane and then lo mein?” she said.

This strategy led to her business’s to start with print: a vibrant illustration of the Atlanta-primarily based rapper with the Chinese egg noodle dish tattooed on his cheek. Gucci Lo Mein stays Nguyen’s favorite development to this day.

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But her punny strategies did not stop there.

Nguyen, who attended faculty in Austin at the time, was driving house to Dallas that day and experienced quite a few hours on the road to herself.

“Just to move the time, I was like, How lots of extra puns can I arrive up with?” claimed Nguyen, who is now 30 and a UX designer. From time to time, thoughts just appear flooding to her, she included.

Christina “Tiny” Nguyen sets up her artwork at the Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Thirty day period Block Bash in the Bishop Arts space of Dallas on Saturday, Could 27, 2023. Nguyen sells prints based mostly on Asian food and hip-hop puns as TinyTasteMaker.(Liesbeth Powers / Team Photographer)

Her brainstorming session on the road in the end led to the generation of her on the internet shop, Small Taste Maker, which sells posters based mostly on puns referencing Asian foods and hip-hop artists.

On Saturday evening , Nguyen was offering her art amid other vendors at the 2nd annual Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage block get together in the Bishop Arts District.

“I really like it simply because people generally get a kick out of it,” she reported. “Whenever they get [a poster], they start out laughing.”

A Vietnamese American born in Oklahoma and lifted in Texas, Nguyen was uncovered to a variety of food items and cultures expanding up, which she mentioned opened her eyes to people today from diverse walks of existence.

“It’s wonderful acquiring pride in your own tradition and your personal ethnic track record,” she said. “But from time to time we do not seriously rejoice the intersections and similarities among a lot of our cultures.”

Nguyen believes her art serves as a tribute to various cultures, and that which is why so several people today are drawn to it. In five many years, Very small Flavor Maker — Nguyen’s nickname is “Tiny” — has sold hundreds of prints and dozens of enamel pins. Some of her much more well known prints are Biggie Rice Balls, A$AP Pocky and Wonton Snoop.

“In a weird way, they are relatable,” she explained. “A good deal of people appear at my illustrations … either identify that rapper from hip-hop society or they are drawn to the food items that I’m drawn to.”

She also describes her prints as insightful “in a lighthearted way.” On her web page, just about every print’s details is shown as a recipe card with “ingredients” that comprise a quick description of the highlighted rapper and food items. Crafting these blurbs has prompted Nguyen to discover about food items from distinctive locations of Asia.

“During the procedure, I’m educating myself on what other Asian food items are out there that I can sort of combine with other popular cultural artists,” she reported.

Her posters primarily involve references to Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese and Korean meals, but she hopes to grow to other Asian cuisines.

Passion for food

Nguyen’s enthusiasm for Asian meals stems from her heritage. Her preferred Vietnamese dish is her mom’s bún riêu, a crab noodle soup created from a tomato-based broth. Although served in a wide range of approaches, it’s widespread to garnish it with greens these types of as drinking water spinach or bean sprouts, she mentioned.

“It’s my mom’s signature dish,” she claimed. “I really do not believe any individual has at any time experimented with my mom’s bún riêu and did not like it.”

Nonetheless, Nguyen’s marriage with Asian food had a fraught start out. In elementary faculty, she was ashamed about the food her mom packed, worried about what her classmates thought of its scent and overall look. She wished to have what her pals ended up acquiring: pizza or Chick-fil-A.

But soon after transferring to Austin for faculty, Nguyen sought out Asian foods institutions to truly feel at property and connect with her roots, specially when she felt homesick.

“Asian food and Vietnamese meals was just my variation of sensation at property,” she mentioned. “I assume now it is just sort of like learning to rejoice the matters that make you uniquely you.”

Nguyen observed that several Asian dishes have a one of a kind blend of sweet, spicy and salty flavors — generally unforgiving and “in your facial area.”

“It’s almost like you really do not know what to assume, but it is constantly homey and pleasant and you can really feel the enjoy in it,” she said.

Art as a unifier

Like many other metropolitan areas, Dallas has viewed a rise in dislike crimes against Asian Us citizens. But Nguyen said Asians have had to offer with discrimination for a extensive time.

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“It’s almost like these points have normally been taking place,” she reported. “We just have never ever paid interest to it, and I assume that is why it is so impressive now.”

She extra that individuals, Asian American or not, must keep on rallying powering these who sense victimized or marginalized. A single way to do so is by celebrating Asian artwork, which she mentioned can support shed light on other facets of the local community.

In the end, she hopes her artwork provides men and women collectively and assists people today from distinct backgrounds figure out every single other’s humanity.

“At the close of the day, we’re all human beings,” she claimed. “That’s the one particular commonality that we have.”

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