Portrait of a Young Artist, from New York to Vietnam and Back

John Yau, Hyperallergic, Septembre 3, 2017

I met Tammy Nguyen at the Asian American Literature Festival, which was presented by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center at various venues in Washington, DC, over a three-day period (July 27 – 29, 2017). I don’t remember the circumstances of our first conversation, but she told me that she was an artist and had a small press. She also said that she resided in New York and often worked at the Center for Book Arts, which wasn’t far from where I live.


Shortly after I got back to New York, I ran into her while walking home from the supermarket. We talked briefly. That evening, I subscribed to Passenger Pigeon Press, which she started in Fall 2016, and, according to the website, “house[s] Martha’s Quarterly, Collaborations, Public Domain, and custom projects.” I subscribed to Martha’s Quarterly after learning that it is “a quarterly subscription of four handmade artist books a year.” The first two issues were sold out, and I started with the fourth and most recent issue, which includes a reprint of the Preface to The Novum Organum (1620) by Francis Bacon. In this paradigm-shifting text, Bacon argued that nature was a domain to be conquered rather than a resource that we inhabited: it existed for our use. Whatever else Passenger Pigeon Press is, Martha’s Quarterly is part manifesto, part a gathering of texts, with the intent to examine, contemplate, challenge, and refute.