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Art opening celebrates two big firsts

OCEANSIDE — The opening reception for “Songs of the Green Bird” celebrated the first solo exhibit by photographer Johnny Nguyen and the grand opening of The Hill Street Country Club Gallery.

The gallery is located in Artists Alley just east of Coast Highway. The alley, which is closed off to traffic, just recently received recognition as a street address on Google Maps.

Artists Alley has also seen a resurgence of art related business tenants including the gallery.

The Hill Street Country Club Gallery, founded by Dinah Poellnitz and Margaret Hernandez, is dedicated to showcasing emerging artists, educating the community and providing engaging art experiences. Stefa Witt, social media and marketing coordinator, is also an integral part of the team.

The Hill Street Country Club began holding popup artist shows in 2012 at different locations in Oceanside before it opened its gallery.

Artist Johnny Nguyen opens his first solo exhibit. Songs of the Green Bird documents an open-air market in Vietnam. Photo by Promise Yee
Artist Johnny Nguyen opens his first solo exhibit. Songs of the Green Bird documents an open-air market in Vietnam. Photo by Promise Yee

The first part of “Songs of the Green Bird” artist project was a popup photography workshop held by Nguyen at the Oceanside Farmers Market on Jan. 2.

The workshop invited community members to learn photojournalism techniques from Nguyen and borrow disposable cameras to practice newly learned skills.

“The purpose of the popup workshop is to make it relatable to what I do,” Nguyen said. “And to make it acceptable to come to the gallery to view art as well.”

Nguyen said one big lesson learned by participants was how to approach subjects.

“It develops social skills to open up and allow people to open up to you,” Nguyen said.

The location of the farmers market was selected to mirror Nguyen’s exhibit that opened Jan. 18.

“Songs of the Green Bird” is a collection of 16 black and white gelatin silver prints that document the Songs of the Green Bird open-air market in Vietnam in 2013.

Each photo captures an intimate insight into the daily market.

Among the striking collection of black and white images are a bicyclist passing bins of fruit, boys playing between vendor booths and a young woman wearing a beauty mask at a salon.

“The story is a small market in Vietnam,” Nguyen said. “People give it its life. They are candid street photos.”

Nguyen used two Nikon 35 mm film cameras, a Nova 50 lens and wide angle lens to shoot. Then he developed all images.

“I love the quality look of film,” Nguyen said. “I like looking at the grain.”

“The darkroom process promotes patience. You can’t just snap 1,000 photos. You have to wait for certain photos to happen.”

Also displayed are 16 images taken by participants at the popup photography workshop.

The final layer of the artist project will be an invitation-only dinner party Feb. 23 in which 20 invited guests bring a pot luck dish and discuss themes inspired from “Songs of the Green Bird.” Main dishes by Chef Davin Waite of Wrench and Rodent Seabasstropub and chef Beau Bonham of Truffle Trike will also be served.

“The main message is to have an appreciation of community,” Nguyen said.

“I have an attachment to this market. I love the whole community aspect of it.

“Vendors sell these goods to live. It’s not a second job or a hobby.

“When you buy something you give money to someone you know. The market thrives because of our support.”

The dinner party will be videotaped and posted on The Hill Street Country Club Gallery website at

The goal of the artist project is to instill a long-lasting appreciation for the arts.


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Justin January 21, 2014 at 4:04 pm

Great write up, they are doing great things for the city.

Promise Yee January 21, 2014 at 6:04 pm


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