Monday, January 30, 2006

Joy is a green backdrop.

There is a Vietnamese restaurant in Westport called Sung Son. It's a lovely little place, with contemporary, yet soft decor, delicious and inexpensive food, and friendly wait staff. It is worth a trip to Sung Son to view the artwork alone. The detailed portraits and embroidered scenes of rural life that adorn the walls are stunning. I've been in the restaurant many times, and each time I see something in the artwork that I missed before.

There is one painting that is particularly beautiful. My husband and I take turns facing it when we eat lunch at Sung Son, because we both find it captivating. It's a portrait of a Vietnamese woman sitting on a woven mat, the background is a vivid green, as is her shirt, her suit shell is a striking red, as are her lips. She is thinking deeply of something, or someone, and one feels as they look at this painting like an intruder on some private moment.

Last week as we sat enjoying Bun and chicken with lemongrass, I overheard a conversation between a group of 5 customers at another table and the owner of the restaurant. One of the customers asked if he could buy one of the paintings in the restaurant - another portrait, this one of a Vietnamese woman washing her feet by candlelight, with rich pink and brown tones. The customer wanted to buy the painting right then and wanted to know how much it cost. The owner didn't know what to charge the man, and said he needed to contact he father in Vietnam to see how much the painting cost. The owner told the customer to call the restaurant in a day or so and he would have a price then.

This is a classic example of us being in the right place at the right time. We always wondered if the paintings were for sale - I was going to ask myself several times, but never got up enough nerve - and now here was someone asking for us. As we left the restaurant, we were both excited, and discussed how much we would be willing to spend on the painting we both so enjoyed.

A few days pass and I forget to call the restaurant. I finally remembered to call them last Friday. I spoke with the owner, who asked if I was a member of the party he spoke with the other day and I told him that I was not, but I overheard his conversation with them and wanted to purchase a painting as well. He told me that the other customers were interested in buying "the pink one and the green one" and when he said "green" my stomach dropped. Then he told me the price of the painting, and it was the EXACT number my husband and I had decided we would be willing to pay. I told the owner I would give him that price for the painting and I would come in and pick it up this weekend.

So I did. And now, the painting that gives us so much joy is hanging on our kitchen wall. My husband said he feels kind of guilty, hording it away from the world like that. "It's like keeping a panda in our spare bedroom," he said this morning as we ate Lucky Charms and stared at this museum work hanging in our house.

For everyone who has ever eaten at Sung Son and enjoyed this painting and will now miss it (like we would have if the other customers had remembered to call the restaurant back) please know that this painting has an excellent home. I'm sorry we took it from your view, but we could not let some anonymous stranger take it away.

A few details we learned from the owner when we picked it up: It was painted by a man in north Vietnam named Mr. Din or Mr. Dinh. The owner's father contacts Mr. Din(h) and asks for a painting, which Mr. Din(h) then completes. The father then retrieves the painting from Mr. Din(h) and ships it to the United States.

As you can see, Mr. Din(h)'s work is incredible. I wish I knew more about him and his art. If you know anything about this painting or the artist, please please please contact me.

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