This student’s art is on display in an unexpected place: the provost’s office

If you stop by USC’s Office of the Provost, you might see Brian Dinh’s oil paintings adorning the walls. They aren’t there by accident.

January 09, 2020 Chandrea Miller

‘I believe there are three pieces,” he said. “Right in here.”

“Here” is USC’s Office of the Provost, where senior Brian Dinh’s artwork is currently on display.

Selma Holo, the executive director of USC Museums and Galleries, says Dinh’s art didn’t end up in the provost’s office by accident. It is on loan from the annual student art exhibit at the USC Fisher Museum of Art.

“Every year, a representative from the provost’s office attends the exhibit to choose specific artwork for the provost,” she said. “And while the art showcase is open to all students, many are from the USC Roski School of Art and Design.”

Brian Dinh is a student there. He is majoring in fine arts with an emphasis in oil painting.

“This was my first oil painting ever,” the 21-year-old said, pointing to a painting of fishes just below the water’s surface entitled Dream Beam. “It represents the id and the ego of one’s psyche; the fishes underneath are one’s primal needs and the surface is one’s exterior, or how they present themselves to the world.”

Student art serves as inspiration for provost and beyond

Dinh says he started to seriously study art when he was just 12 years old, largely due to the support of his family.

“My parents are immigrants from Vietnam. They came here when they were very young,” he said. “From the get-go, they’ve been supportive.”

Provost art by Brian Dinh
Brian Dinh‘s painting, “Genesis,” also on display in the provost’s office. (USC Photo/Chandrea Miller)

The Dinh family settled in Anaheim with their three children. They enrolled their oldest child, Brian, in the nearby public charter school, Orange County School of the Arts, a college-preparatory school that embraces and encourages artistic creativity.

“I was there from seventh to 12th grade,” Dinh said. “After high school, I wanted the ability to continue my artistic endeavors and I thought USC Roski had the same academic rigor I was looking for.”

And outlets to share it, such as inside the Office of the Provost.

“I am immediately inspired when I come into my office and see Brian’s art,” Provost Charles Zukoski said. “It serves as a daily reminder for why I am here — for why we as faculty members are all here. It’s to support these amazing and talented students of ours.”

Every year the provost’s office selects new art to display on its walls and tables. Visitors frequently ask about the pieces — which can include ceramics, sculptures, paintings and drawings.

“It’s a pleasure,” Zukoski said, “to tell our guests that this is student art.”

Burgeoning artist considers wide array of potential careers

Dinh is not just a thriving student artist; he is also an intern at the USC Fisher Museum of Art.

“It’s an honor to be an intern at the Fisher Museum,” he said. “I think it’s also just good to be in that setting, since I’m ultimately aspiring to have my art located and housed under a museum of some sort.”

In addition, Dinh says working at the museum has given him a newfound interest in how they function.

“I can really see myself behind the scenes, too,” he said. “The knowledge and operating systems that go behind museum structures are starting to really fascinate me.”

When asked about his future artistic endeavors following his May 2020 graduation, Dinh says he could be creating art on or off the canvas.

“I went to New York for the first time this past summer for a fashion internship,” Dinh said. “I have always loved object making to varying degrees; I mean, everybody wears clothes.”

But no matter what art he is putting out into the world, Dinh says there is one lesson from his USC education that he will be taking with him: “Being an artist is not an entitlement to be reckless. You should be conscious of the work you are creating and follow the culture of the times.”