I have never asked Tammy Nguyen if she knows of this statement by Stéphane Mallarmé: “Everything in the world exists in order to end up as a book,” although it makes sense that she would. In 2017, after meeting her at an Asian American Literature Festival hosted by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center in Washington D.C., I thought of her as a book artist and subscribed to Passenger Pigeon Press, which she started in 2016. What I have since learned is that she has a very elastic vision of what constitutes a book.
Nguyen has designed and printed offset editions, made letterpress books that include laser-cut technology, dense collages, prints, and large paintings on paper that has been stretched around a wood panel and displayed on the wall. Marbling, chine collé, gold and silver leafing, and calligraphic brushwork are some of the processes that she utilizes in her work. She has studied different disciplines, including the taxidermy of birds, when she worked at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History while earning her MFA, and lacquer painting when she was in Vietnam on a Fulbright (2007–8).