Alec Von Bargen and Understanding Cultural Fluidity Through Art

Profile image of artist Alec Von Bargen

Adult TCK and mixed-media artist Alec Von Bargen uses art as a method to express himself and educate those around him. 

For many Third Culture Kids (TCKs), it’s a struggle for them to understand their roots and where they are meant to fit into this world because of their hidden diversity.

Many TCKs have experiences that some will not even have in their lifetime, keeping in mind that all of this is happening during their developmental years. Finding an outlet or a tool that can help them understand themselves and their lifestyle is important.

Von Bargen lived in five different countries before he turned 18 and spoke five different languages before 15; he is truly a textbook definition global nomad. He talks about how growing up as a TCK has greatly influenced his adult life, where he spends most of his time traveling and practicing art, trying to depict hidden diversity and global mobility through his experimental photographs. He notes the unique connection between culture and the realities that cultivate within it.

Alec Von Bargen with his work.
Image courtesy of Celeste Prize.

Von Bargen and his art

Von Bargen’s work has significant ties to people, culture and the lands in which they inhabit. Von Bargen is interested in the idea of existence, specifically the historical connection of someone’s identity, as well as the “story that reveals itself from within.”

In one of his works, entitled “River Rats/Now can I play with you?” he explores his own personal experience of acceptance within a culture. Von Bargen has experienced how a culture defines a society, and how an individual becomes one with a culture through experience.

Throughout his life, he had to learn how to become globally mobile and culturally fluid, and his artwork is a way for him to express his experiences with this process. 

Alec Von Bargen with his work "The Long Walk Home."
Image courtesy of Art Slant

 In his series “The Long Walk Home,” Von Bargen dives deeper, combining elements of hidden diversity with international current events. This series draws influence and brings awareness to the refugee crisis happening in northern Africa and Southeast Asia. He is attempting to let viewers understand that “we are all refugees in this world, one way or another.”

Because of his TCK experience, Von Bargen has a deeper understanding and awareness of people that extends beyond the superficial. He is able to share similar struggles, pain and desires of others no matter their cultural identifications or hidden diversities.

I love to live within a ‘culture,’ discover first-hand that which makes it tick, and because of my past as a Third Culture Kid, am passionate about people.

Alec Von Bargen

Von Bargen’s work is an example of how he shows his understanding of cultural fluidity and how he came to his understanding of his own hidden diversities. He explains how “reality is not all as straightforward as it seems, therefore it’s divided into moments, instances, breaths.”

The below work is comprised of 27 separate panels that convey glimpses of reality, memory and place. It is a gradual movement from white to black imagery, signifying time and life experiences through whatever construct has been built around our lives as individuals.

Von bargen artwork.
Image source: Celeste Prize

He connects this to himself as a TCK by accepting that “we are all on a constant search for acceptance and a slow walk in directions unknown. Our walk is eternal and uncertain.”

This piece allows Von Bargen to understand his personal journey. He hopes it will allow viewers to understand their personal journey, too.

For TCKs and globally mobile individuals, places, people and possessions are left in the past; the only thing to hold onto is the future, which is unknown. Von Bargen’s work helps audiences understand their lives, question how moments reflect their ever-changing lives, and get a sense of how different all of us are, even if it doesn’t appear that way from the outside.


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