Offering traditional Chinese medicine from her Canadian residence, employing diploma-level acupuncture training from MacEwan University, the Vietnamese-born Tam Duong is — in short — a holistic healer. But, at the end of the day, who heals the healer? For Duong, she at least partially relies on her fine arts studies at the University of Alberta to balance herself, creating deeply personal works under the alias of Okedoki, expunging any inner turmoil as adorable and uplifting art. A notably private person, Duong has kept her healer and artist personas separate for over a decade, but that changed on a warm November day when — for the first time — she invited people into her studio space. With over 200 guests in attendance, acupuncture clients and art collectors mingling freely, this Okedoki retrospective exhibition and open studio event was titled Benny World, aptly named after the artist’s signature creation: Benny the Dreamer.

An Overview of Okedoki’s Benny World Open Studio / Solo Exhibition

With the Benny World event split across two floors, the lower level’s mimosa cocktails and sugary treats flowed in abundance, the room’s centerpieces being a Ferris wheel and merry-go-round made out of LEGOs. As this carnival theme and construction material beautifully implanted a sense of nostalgia into adult attendees, a feeling further fueled by the presence of a massive popcorn machine, this atmosphere prepared guests for their creative journey into Okedoki’s world of art toy works. With some pieces displayed upon the back wall, like icing on this deliciously designed cake, there was also a brief but educational display detailing the method and process involved in creating one Okedoki art toy form, specifically her frog-prince character Mighty Mo.

Transitioning to the main level’s gallery space, this floor was mainly a retrospective of recent Okedoki creations, several of which have yet to be issued. From Ali Bubba, a tuskless interpretation Ganesha reminiscent of Babar the Elephant, to the bipedal koala Gusto the Billionaire, part of the forthcoming Benny and Friends series, a joyful sense exudes from this space, even in her collaborations with Akinori Oishi and Ema Frost. But perhaps the most insightful piece was a neon sign that Okedoki made with local glass artist Neil Martin, designed to emulate the handwriting of her mentor, a woman who guided the then-25-year-old Duong towards a path of growth and self-awareness, tutelage that is passed along to Okedoki’s six studio assistants. And, as is emblazoned in the flickering light, at the heart of it all is a simple but profound message: “Live your dream.”
Okedoki’s Benny World open studio and solo exhibition was a one-day-only event on Sunday, November 17th, 2019.

For more information on Okedoki:
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