Constellations VIII

Tommy Kha (American, b. 1988)
Digital chromogenic print
Sheet/image : 15 7/8 x 19 7/8 in. (40.32 x 50.48 cm)
Credit Line
Hope College Collection
Object Number

Artist Tommy Kha created this striking image by putting a portrait of his own face on a cardboard cutout of Elvis Presley and then positioning that cutout in a dated-looking kitchen so that it appears as if he is standing in the space. Kha’s practice of putting images of himself in different contexts and then photographing those contexts is his way of trying to understand and negotiate his own place in the world. He once explained: “As a queer Asian-American brought up in Memphis, I did not see myself represented in the media or the canon of Western art. I think literally inserting myself into representations is part of my way of trying to resolve that.” This image became the subject of controversy in the spring of 2022 when it was deinstalled and later reinstalled at the Memphis Airport following criticisms of it leveled by visiting Elvis fans. Kha has said that the work is meant as a tribute to Presley, although the shadow of a noose visible in the upper right corner of the image suggests that the tribute also acknowledges some of the darker aspects of Elvis’s life and legacy.

Object Type