Update: 08:38 | 02/11/2019
Le Minh Chau was born with stunted limbs that are almost non-functional, but the artist in him could not be denied. Armed with just basic art training, the 28-year-old artist who uses his mouth to paint is self-taught. Chau, subject of the Oscar-nominated "Chau, Beyond the Lines" movie, has been inspiration for many disabled people.
He cannot hold things with his stunted hands and has to move around using his knees since he can’t walk normally like other people. However, his story is not merely about overcoming the severe disabilities he was born with.
Le Minh Chau mixes colors with a brush held in his mouth.
Because of difficult family circumstances, he was raised in Hoa Binh Village, a shelter for children suffering congenital and other defects as a result of Agent Orange, run by the Tu Du maternity hospital, Saigon.
As the teacher created one painting after another, the little boy’s imagination was captured. He stood behind and closely followed each of her movements. He suddenly saw the possibility of transforming his life from a dull one to a vividly colored one.
However, just as Chau had grasped the basics of painting, the teacher went abroad and the class was disbanded. Without an instructor, Chau taught himself how to mix colors through books and pictures.
A portrait of a woman by Chau.
But the biggest obstacle was that Chau could not control his twitching hands. The 9-year-old boy had to spend six hours to complete a picture. But the desire burned stronger in Chau. He wanted to prove to everyone that "physical defects cannot limit talents."
At 17, Chau left Hoa Binh Village, able to eke out a living with his paintings. But he still faced many hardships as he pursued his dream of opening his own art gallery. At 20, he took his first big step with his first exhibition in Saigon's District 7, showing the public, the world at large, his creative side.
When new ideas come to mind, Chau would stay up all night, not bothering to sleep till he finished the work. Some paintings would take just 10 minutes, and others could take up to a year to complete.
Alongside this almost constant work of creating new paintings, Chau is also trying learn foreign languages.
Chau has no intention on resting on his laurels. He wants his experiences to inspire others, and has opened an art course to teach others.
Chau can finish a painting in as little as 10 minutes.
At around 7 p.m. one day, the artist was teaching an art class to a group of four students 12 to 15 years old in a small attic in District 2, Saigon. It was a small drawing class with a few tables and chairs, and he wielded his brush in his mouth as he introduced the children into the world of paintings.
Among the secondary students he has tutored, four have won scholarships to learn painting in the U.K., France, Australia and Belgium.
Over the last five years, Chau has more than 100 paintings exhibited at international exhibitions in the U.S., Canada, France and Japan. His artworks were all sold out and the money donated to charity.
But Chau is far from done. He still has dreams to pursue. He wants to open an art gallery in the United States and have his work displayed at a museum there.