Artwork from Ken Rutkowski

A large simply drawn daisylike flower with two petals.
A stick figure of a person holding up a line of other smaller stick figures with the sun overhead.
The words ‘Khong Sau’ and ‘Mistakes are Forgiven in Stride’ and three calm stick figures of people underneath the words
The sun overhead and insects flying to a house and children and a family standing nearby.
Lots and lots of diagonal right to left lines, short and all over the paper.
Stick figure of a serene person with a plant growing out of their head.
Person with a thought bubble thinking of lots of smaller people.
A person’s head and a question mark with the text ‘remember’ between them.
Person asking a turtle what the turtle has on their back.

I have been living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam for the past six years. We, everyone here, calls it Saigon. I have traveled extensively around Asia, but I am most familiar and indebted to Vietnam. It is a misunderstood, small, but lively country.

The city is very colorful and bustling, flowers and plants everywhere, outdoor markets, packed alleys and daily services often forgotten about or disregarded in Western cultures. It is a collective mind in this country, life is good, not always easy, but they try to live well, by standards that have seemed to fit my own sensibility. 

I call these pieces “picture poems”, a Kenneth Patchen reference/ vernacular, but travel memoirs/ photo essays/ instances in themselves that reflect how I see the world in Vietnam, immersed, and always through learning and contribution.

I am most comfortable with words, but images are usually how the words take form, through the physicality of thought. 

Some of the pieces were created in the 3 months our lives have been on hold…three months for us…we have been set free, “man is condemned to be free”, I have seen great acts of determination and hospitality, trade and love, but also dire circumstances that have made me break down. Still, throughout this experience, “we” have remained calm and accepted this as survival first.