We’ve all made sacrifices and dealt with loss during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it be from product shortages, job security or even income disparity, we’ve been forced to make changes.


With her new exhibition at Georgia Southern’s Armstrong Campus, conceptual artist and BFA senior Lananh "Lann" Lê confronts this unavoidable truth, asking the question: "What are we ‘Good Without?’"



"It’s not a traditional, ‘I’m making sculptures and putting them in the gallery [or] I’m making paintings,’" explained Assistant Professor of Art Bridget Conn, who acted as Lê’s advisor for the project.


"This is an interactive exhibition. She’s soliciting questions from the public and they’re providing her with photos. They’re providing her with stories, and even the objects that will go in the gallery."


Over the past several months, Lê has used her website to gather these images from the community of what they’ve given up. For the show, the artist is displaying the collected photographs and the aforementioned "objects" participants have sacrificed. Additionally, she is broadcasting a pre-recorded panel discussion about the theme into the space, which serves to add additional context.


"Having the exhibition is sharing that question and sharing that experience," she said.


Amongst the physical items people were willing, or even happy, to let go of are things like high heels and makeup, coffee and alcohol, holiday decorations, and cellphones, which Lê says ended up being the number one reply to her query.


But many folks were much more philosophical in their answers to what they’re "good without," responding with ideas like the concept of time, or the security that comes with a government job. Conn, for example, expressed a willingness to abandon going out to eat.


"When the restaurants closed down, lots of people [went] back into the kitchen," said Lê. "They don’t have to depend on outsourcing their food."


Reflecting on the question herself, the artist found many things that she was willing to give up, but was similarly drawn to a more abstract notion.


"One thing is the idea of ‘me versus them,’ the idea that I’m special," she said. "And I think that classification between me and you, it brings some disappointment and isolation, so I think I’m good without that."


Like many students, Lê shifted gears from what she’d been focused on artistically prior to the health crisis to explore something more relevant to our current circumstances. In her case, however, the change has been particularly profound: she was studying graphic design to go into marketing.


"I do things to liberate myself from limits," Lê said of her decision to go in such a dramatically different direction from her area of study for her senior project. "Before the pandemic…I had to have control over my work. I’m a perfectionist. Things have to look a certain way. I want people to feel certain things, to have [a] certain reaction.


"So this process is a learning of letting go, trusting others, and embrac[ing] the results.


"Art responds to life, and life’s upside down right now." Conn added.


The artist hopes that visitors to the exhibition will ask themselves what they’re "good without," but she understands that the work that she’s presenting isn’t necessarily for everyone.


"Sometimes conceptual art is like, ‘What the heck?’" Lê admitted. "But if you take the question and…take it as a puzzle, you may have interesting trains of thoughts."


"We only need what we need to be happy," she added. "Maybe the most valuable things are people and experiences instead of things."


Lananh "Lann" Lê’s exhibition "Good Without" is on view through December 4th in the gallery in the Fine Arts Building at Georgia Southern’s Armstrong Campus, located at 11935 Abercorn Street in Savannah.