MIDLAND Two new exhibitions have recently opened up at the Museum of the Southwest as Loc Huynh’s “Texanese” and Shannon Cannings’ “Target Audience” opened late last month.

“Target Audience” will be on display at the museum until Aug. 14 while “Texanese” will be on display until Sept. 18.

Huynh, who is of Vietnamese and Chinese descent, grew up in Austin and earned his BFA from Texas State University in 2016. He did graduate work at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and received his MFA from the University of North Texas in 2020. Today, he works in Houston.

“Loc Huynh is really on the early stages of his career,” Museum of the Southwest Curator Matthew Ward said. “This is his first museum solo show. He’s a 30-year-old artist. He’s originally from Austin.”

Through painting, Huynh has “used materiality to reaffirm the material world,” according to his bio.

In his bio, Huynh describes the vocabulary of images that he uses are idiosyncratic but also serve as evidence of his biography.

“Texanese,” which Ward describes as “very autobiographical” is a series of tongue-in-cheek self portraits that places him in a fictionalized old west.

“Each piece incorporates his background, his Vietnamese, Chinese and Texan heritage,” Ward said. “We developed this show together, based on the Museum of the Southwest, based on our collection, which is a lot of traditional western art.”

Ward said it’s also based on Huynh’s experience as an Asian American growing up in Texas.

“He would tell me that while in Texas, he would often seem Asian and his Asianess was a factor but when he went outside of Texas, when people heard he was from Texas, they would ask if he rides horses or shoot guns. In one place, he’s known for one stereotype and when he’s outside of that place, he’s known by another. It’s really about this dichotomy of self-hood.”

Ward said it’s also a commentary on traditional western works of arts like pieces by Frederick Remington.

A painting from Shannon Cannings’ exhibit titled “Target Audience” sits on display Wednesday at Museum of the Southwest in Midland. (Michael Bauer|Odessa American)

But whereas Huynh is an up and coming artist, Cannings is well-established.

While Huynh’s exhibition focuses on elements of the wild west, Cannings’ focuses on a subject that’s become more topical with the debate surrounding guns.

Her exhibit features bright colors, slick surfaces and packaging of toy guns that make up her subject matter.

Cannings, who was born in Pittsburgh, Pa., received her BFA from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia and her MFA from Syracuse University in New York.

She’s been a professor at Texas Tech University for almost 20 years now, teaching, drawing and painting.

“She first started focusing on plasticity, focusing on plastic objects after she moved to West Texas,” Ward said. “She wanted color. She wanted something that was simple and nostalgic. So she started painting beach balls and pool floats. Those things really appealed to her.”

At a certain point, she started painting toy squirt guns.

“They have this tie to nostalgia,” Ward said. “They’re fun and appealing. But for Cannings, they also have a more serious quality and that’s this connection we have with fire arms at an early age.”

In Cannings’ statement on the exhibition, she asks herself — and the viewers her paintings confront — do these hyper-realistic depictions of toy guns also glorify and aestheticize violence? What lessons do people learn from gun play?

“Squirt guns and toy guns, they’re appealing,” Ward said. “They’re plastic. They’re colorful and fun. That’s our first experience with firearms but what does that mean going forward into adulthood?”

In the exhibit, squirt guns are placed in disorienting backgrounds where everything is confusing.

“For Cannings, that represents the conversations with gun culture in America,” Ward said. “Sometimes they’re loud and shouting and a lot of confrontation but how many of that is productive discussion? That’s why she uses this symbol of the target. The target is there as a hopeful symbol that we can focus on and that by cutting out the noise and confusion that is in the media, we can have productive conversations, level-headed where we can discus subtleties and compromise and meet in the middle.”

Ward emphasized that the message behind Cannings’ exhibit is not to be biased.

“The intent is solely that we can have open conversations about it and the only way to do that is to have honest, open conversations and not shouting or fighting and to really talk to each other,” Ward said.

For more information on both exhibits, visit tinyurl.com/5fmwnnbw.

If you go

  • What: Texanese and Target Audience exhibitions.
  • When: Target Audience: Now until Aug. 14, Texanese: Now until Sept. 18.
  • Where: Museum of the Southwest.