Tell us a little about yourself and your current work.
I am a Korean-born, Salt Lake City, Utah-based artist. I make inside-out portraits of people I am surrounded by to understand myself and the world around me. My work represents my shifting identity as an immigrant, woman, or hybrid in a globalized world with a strong influence on social media. I make paintings, drawings, installations, and public art influenced by surrealism and animation.
My recent series 'Waterman the Stranger(2018-2019)' is about a person like me who struggles to shape identity and stay in a state of flux in a new place or new circumstances. I started by asking – “if I mimic what an ideal life looks like in a new place, will I blend in well?” In this series, I deal with alienation because of pursuing the self-defined ideal life. I illustrate myself as shifting water that repels, absorbs, reflects, and fails to show the figure's struggle to find a place within its environment. The backgrounds reflect ‘a better life' in Utah that I imagined. This series started from my struggle of settling in Utah after moving from New York.
How is your process and work integral to you, your environment, your community?
My work is influenced by my surroundings, including the environment and my community - maybe direct and indirect communities that I observe through social media. I find the feed on social media uncomfortable and fascinating. Inspiration, motivation, temptation, jealousy, and sadness come together with a little bit of new information in there, so I have to keep my critical eyes open, constantly and consciously. The struggle and the sense of isolation while I try to observe and communicate with the world informs my waterman in my works. Waterman characters in my works pose as if the people use social media or take selfies.
What are you experimenting with in these new works? Is there symbolism or meaning behind certain aspects included in the new works?
I address modern loneliness and isolation caused by social media directly by locating the phone and windows in the works with watermen. Windows are maybe the real world or the projection of the real world. The depiction of the background is outlined thinly as a delicate and fragile reality. Sometimes I locate the multiple windows - including the phone window- to illustrate the blurred line between real, projected and simulated reality.
You have one work included in the show that features two watermen figures interacting with each other; the first time any of your works have featured multiple figures — is this representative of a new era?
If the single waterman is about self-reflection in the form of a self-portrait, the multiple watermen are about a relationship. I see the relationship in two ways. First, between two or more people, like partners, kids, friends, family and me. The second is a relationship between different personalities and what-ifs. I mean, the push and pull between the good and bad OR scenarios A and B inside me. So you can see the multiple watermen in that sense. Multiple watermen will appear as I continue with single waterman portraits.
Where did you draw inspiration from for these works? Have other MW artists in this exhibition influenced your work?
I have to interact with others to understand myself better, like I have to see the mirror to see myself. As many are minorities or 'aliens' in some way in this show, I am interested in sharing and understanding stories together. They are exciting artists who explore to scratch their visual itch. So it is fantastic to hear what they are interested in, which helps me think about similar or different topics in similar or different ways.