Since August, Provost Charles Zukoski’s office has been home to vibrant paintings of still life and portraits. They’re pieces from throughout senior Brian Dinh’s art career, ranging from his high school artwork to the end of his senior year of college.
Each academic year, a representative from the provost’s team chooses a student’s art exhibit from the USC Fisher Museum of Art to be featured in their office, taking great care in deciding which art will be displayed and choosing a piece that will send a positive message to students on the importance of displaying student artwork and appreciating the work of USC students.
“We [were] looking for pieces that are relevant, dynamic and empowering: Brian Dinh’s artwork embodies all of those elements and more,” Zukoski wrote in an email statement to the Daily Trojan.
Zukoski endorsed the decision to display a student’s artwork. He said he feels that it adds value to the office by showcasing the artistic skills of USC students.
“As an institution, our museums are recognized as having the best standards and practices when it comes to attracting and exhibiting the finest artwork in the world,” Zukoski said. “I believe it’s equally important to curate artwork from our own student artists.”
Dinh, a senior majoring in fine arts with an emphasis in oil painting, had his first oil painting “Dream Beam” featured in Zukoski’s office. The painting depicts a boat on the water’s surface with fish swimming underneath the surface of the flowing water.
Dinh said that having the first artwork he’s created on display was bittersweet since the work represents a stage of his artistic journey that has come to a close as he has begun to “loosen” his artistic style.
“It’s a work that encapsulates the beginning of something that I’m moving away from,” Dinh said. “I don’t produce that kind of work anymore. So does that mean my work is less valuable [compared to today’s work]?”
Zukoski said the decision to have a student’s work displayed in his office comes from a desire to represent their student body and their ability to create unique pieces of art.
“I am instantly inspired when I come into my office and see student artwork,” Zukoski said. “It serves as a daily reminder for why I am here — for why we as faculty members are all here. It’s to support these brilliant students of ours.”
In addition, Zukoski hopes the artwork will send a message to students that the work they create holds value.
“Art is essential to education: It creates a culture of thought that moves, inspires and transforms people,” Zukoski said. “Contemporary art created by our own students at this very specific time in history has something to say about our current culture and world, and I think it’s worth listening to by placing it in our offices, schools and maybe even someday our museums.”
Dinh, who will graduate in May, currently works as an office administrator at the Fisher Museum of Art — an experience that he said has piqued his curiosity about museum operation.
As for Dinh’s future plans post-college, he hopes to continue pursuing art but wants to change his field of interest.
“I will have a departure from the art fields … and head into more behind the scenes in terms of operations because I am fond of the organizational systems,” Dinh said. “But I may start leaning into more PR and e-commerce stuff, which I previously did this past summer in textile fashion production.”
Dinh felt that the biggest setback for him artistically is that many students in his art classes tend to be from non-art majors and are in the class to relax, while Dinh himself is passionate about the subject.
“I went to a performing arts high school, so everyone there pretty much had their own gifts to bring to the table,” Dinh said. “[At USC] I feel like the disparity between that has been a setback in terms of challenging yourself creatively when there’s not a lot of people who feel as creative as you do.”