MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - In a gallery at the Walker Art Center, the work of Pao Houa Her is coming into focus. The exhibit is called "Flowers Of The Sky", but it's really the photographer who is in full bloom.
"Kind of surreal. I remember coming here as an undergrad and seeing the exhibitions here and wishing with my friends we would have a show here and here we are today, 15 years later. Feel really fortunate," Pao Houa Her told FOX 9.
The oldest of seven siblings, Her fled Laos with her family when she was just three years old and grew up on St. Paul's east side.
But she uses her love of photography to document the Hmong diaspora, both in the U.S. and in her native country, capturing and critiquing the Hmong American experience through her own personal lens.
"I think it's really important for us to be able to tell our own stories and I think for me, I think about the ways I can tell my own story and think about who better to tell my story than myself," Her said.
This year, Her's work is being included in one of the world's most prestigious contemporary art shows, the Whitney Biennial, curated by the Whitney Museum in New York City.
She also opens her first solo show at the Walker on Thursday, featuring photographs of the landscape in northern California worked by Hmong marijuana farmers.
"I also understand that historically those places have not been accessible to us. Trying to think about what it means to be in that space and have that space become accessible to my community."
Her's recent success is bittersweet, because it comes without her biggest supporter, her husband, who died of a brain hemorrhage in March of last year, but she hopes bringing her unique perspective to the art world will open a window into what is happening in her community.
"I think we live in a community that is rich with so many different cultures and just being able to see something other than white artists on these walls can really help our communities," Her said.