My concentration focuses on the symbol of an ‘odd eye’ that captures both traditional and postmodern cultural phenomena. I created this symbol to demonstrate that traditional cultures are not just the thing of the past, but can harmoniously come together with postmodern ideas. By incorporating the traditional Korean designs and contemporary designs, I used various media and techniques to portray how the two distinctively different styles can create a unique harmony.
I thought about the way that Brancusi simplified forms, but also gave the forms meaning. In the same way, I started with creating a symbol of an eye by simplifying the form with geometric lines. Then I portrayed the symbol in various techniques by using contemporary production, methods like silk screening and incorporating the silk screens with traditional Korean folk patterns. Like Andy Warhol, I used silk screening in a painterly way and used the drips as forms to draw on. While creating a combination of traditional and contemporary designs, I experimented with printed, painted, and drawn forms. I also used stencils and methods of subtraction and addition. In C10, for instance, I merged two silk screens into one image through addition and subtraction, subtracting from both and adding the missing part of each to one another. When you look at C3 and C6, you can see that not all the parts of the stencil was used, but the form was still able to remain strong, because an added layer of drawing around it and the color yellow kept it strong compositionally. If you look at C 4, you can see how I used the silk screen to paint. Different colors were dragged through the screen to give a painterly effect. Then a clean, clear form was silk screened on top of the painterly texture, balancing experimentations with precision.
Let me tell you a few things.
I’m 40% Korean, 40% Japanese, and 20% American. This does not mean I’m a descendent of Jeremy Lin nor I speak Mandarin.
My mom has a last name Kim and first name Miyuki. This does not mean she is a chinc or a tiger mom.
My grandmother is Japanese American, and she has a strong accent. This does not mean she is not American enough nor she should feel the shame of being Asian.
For decades, the word ‘Asian’ has been a term that homogenizes 17 million Asian Americans; (pause) a term that justifies the rest of the country to force us to fit into the stereotypes and to hind behind our heritage; A SYNONYM FOR ‘LESS-AMERICAN,’ ‘SHAMEFUL,’ ‘EXOTIC,’ AND MANY MORE; a term that makes you assume that your Chinese classmate is an awkward math genius or a musical virtuoso.
But I believe the word ‘Asian’ should mean nothing more than my ethnicity.
I refuse to conceal that every time you confuse me with some other nationality that I might share similarities with, you turn me into a racist joke and strip away my individuality.
I refuse to appreciate J.K. Rowling for making her only Asian character Cho Chang an overachieving nerd, and to remain silent to the media that portrays Asian women as hypersexual, exoteric objects.
I REFUSE TO LIVE IN A SOCIETY THAT LABELS ME AS MINORITY, BUT TREATS ME LIKE A FOREIGNER; a society that protects me as a secondary role, but never as a leader; a society in which my ethnicity is regarded as a long list of derogatory terms engraved as an enduring tattoo on my back; a society that forces me to suppress my heritage in a culture that appropriates it, fetishizes it, and marginalizes it.
And I ask you, to see beyond the word, and learn who I really am.
At the end of the school year, I was lucky enough to have my artworks published on the Daemon, the annual literary magazine of Episcopal High School. These are the two pieces of Korean traditional art I worked on last year. It was such a pleasure to introduce Asian art to the school community and have my works displayed besides poems and proses written by my classmates. Next year, as an AP studio art student and the vice president of the Student Association of Visual Arts, I look forward to promoting diversity through art by opening workshops for traditional arts from various countries and displaying my pieces on school exhibitions.
It was a balmy spring day when I got back to my hometown for vacation and met Will, an Indian businessman touring Korea for the third time. As a teenage English tour guide, I enthusiastically introduced Gyeong-bok Palace, the main royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty in Seoul, to the curious businessman. My unforgettable moment started when he complimented on how detailed and coherent my presentation. Soon, I asked him “I’m very impressed it is your third time visiting Korea. How do you like my country? What brings you here so often?” It was a very typical but an effective ice-breaker I employed with most of the visitors. However, his answer was not a typical one, but struck home, deep in my heart. “Yes, I love Korea. I love Korean culture such as K-Pop, and the way people here treat me. But every time I come here,” He continued, “I keep wondering why people here are often very hostile or even apathetic to certain cultures. They seem to be very global and but also extremely reclusive, both at the same time. They exuberate with I-Phones and Jazz Pop, but rule out Islam or South East Asian cultures as unacceptable. It is very ironic and interesting.”
As I heard Will’s comments, I came to realize that we, Koreans, do indeed, lived in a closed world, often lacking open-mindedness. While we praise I-Phones for enabling communication between people who are far apart, we often judge people with different social backgrounds based on what is portrayed of them on the media, without trying to truly understand others.
Finding myself lack of open-mindedness, I immediately stood up and acted out to increase understanding in various cultures. My first action was a special project called “The Asia Project – Enlightening the Global Mind’ in a school newspaper club. The ultimate goal of this proposal was to expand awareness of the cultures that Korean are unfamiliar with, and to educate our peers as to why it was important to respect and accept others as they are, without discriminating them for being different. I started to interview various people who had been mistreated because of their social backgrounds, such as women from multicultural families and North Korean refugees. I also wrote articles for the school newspaper about the unique cultural characteristics of such individuals, to encourage my classmates to learn about diversity and prevent bias. My second attempt was to join The Asia Institute, a pan-Asian research institute, as an intern, which enabled me to create student-organized seminars and interviews. After learning about the special characteristics and potential of Asia, I eventually came to appreciate the uniqueness and diversity of people all around the world, and my fascination about various cultures has become unstoppable since then. I’m constantly trying to embrace various voices by interviewing foreign visitors and authorities in order to be widen my definition of cultural awareness.
Will impacted me in various ways, from the way I view the world to how I interact with people around me. After I realized how important it is to acquire correct knowledge followed by assertive action, I became eager to learn more about a broad spectrum of cultures, trying to avoid any form of bias that may lead to misunderstanding. I do believe that such an attitude will enable me to be open to various cultures of people wherever I go and develop true relationships with individuals driven by the same goals.