The Vessel: Where Once the Stories Bloomed Like Teardrops

Found Object and Mixed Media Installation for the LIQUID STORIES Exhibition, Curated by Pallavi Sharma @ The San Ramon Community Center (12501 Alcosta Blvd, San Ramon, CA) from Oct 3 - 27, 2016

Four things inspired the creation of The Vessel: Where Once the Stories Bloomed Like Teardrops. The first was Walt Whitman’s poem “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d”, though this piece is not meant as an elegy, but as a container for all the lost stories. Tales that have been forgotten, misused or that the world has simply moved on from. This idea is captured with the words that used to begin all Hungarian fairy tales: Where was it? Where was it not? rather than Once upon a time. It also holds the narratives that we tell ourselves and have moved on from out of necessity. These types of narratives seem so fluid to me, and I wanted to pay homage to them with something as beautiful and impractical as the Pennsylvania home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Fallingwater. The third was the following words by Ezra Pound:

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;

Petals on a wet, black bough.

His poem “In A Station of the Metro” echoed in my mind while dreaming of this installation. To make the structure, I re-used an old panel from an art exhibition in Pacifica and ripped up an antique Baudelaire book I found in Healdsburg called Flowers of Evil. The rice paper is from my first batch of Japanese-style papermaking and was made from many trips to the watering hose at Judy Shintani’s studio in Half Moon Bay. The wood pieces were collected by Stafford Lake in Novata at a friend’s birthday party. All of these objects hold water and stories within them as well. What is found in their arrangement, I hope, is not just the sadness of loss, like the dying of rose petals, but the sense of renewal that comes after the tears have bloomed. It is this beautiful energy that carries us forward to more dooryards, different crowds, falling like water into new stories. I found that sense of renewal in the last thing, the person I dedicate this installation to — JLB.

Contours of a Metaphor

Found Object and Mixed Media Installation for A PLACE OF HER OWN, Curated by Cynthia Tom and Maggie Yee @ I-Hotel in Manilatown Heritage Foundation (868 Kearny Street, San Francisco, CA) from May 19 - June 30, 2016

In my first A Place of Her Own installation in 2011, I asked: “What is my life concept? What is my story? I need a new frame, but I don’t know the old frame. The search for a frame itself gives birth to both a metaphorical and a real place of my own. This place begins in fear, sadness, and loss but when examined in the clear, harsh light of day, it becomes a space for my own creation and creativity.” I created two red doors that stood 14 feet high with 83 scarves spilling out from the edges and six red frames arranged like a stained glass window to represent standing on a threshold, where any possibilities could emerge.

I’m no longer standing in that place. I’ve found a new frame, which I’m exploring in an installation called “Contours Of A Metaphor.” It operates on the heart and crown chakras, symbolically merging the two. I left PLACE in 2014 to devote myself to matters of the heart, and now I’ve come back, not having figured it out. Through meditations here as well as Open Floor Movement Practice and 5 Rhythms™, I know I’m still meant to be focusing on contours of the heart.

Milan Kundera begins his novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, with the words: “Metaphors are dangerous. Metaphors are not to be trifled with. A single metaphor can give birth to love.” A single metaphor can give birth to a new identity too. The bowler hat his character, Sabina, wears in the story inspired me to put on my own bowler hat(s). I wanted to know what it felt like to wear an object so charged with gender binaries, lightness, sexuality and persona. Over the years, I’ve adopted this imagery and created my own persona around the bowler hat because I like the feelings of power, lightness and freedom that emerge when I put it on my head.

The bowler hat used in this installation was my first. It came from Brooklyn, where a friend moved. The hat was on a shelf in her room when she arrived, and she had no idea what to do with it until I mentioned wanting one. It was a struggle for her to remove from the shelf it had been attached to, so I knew this hat had a history and story of its own. When I was at a low point, I wore it for hours sitting at a mosaic table in a coffee shop crying. When I got home, a long poem poured forth and both my new writing practice and persona were created. I wanted to do something special with this hat, which is the center of a place of my own, and from that center, reach out with both hands to embrace life and movement. In one hand, I hold my heart, and in the other, greater possibilities.



A Material Girl

Found Object and Mixed Media Panels for the 50-50 SHOW IV (Juried Exhibition) @ Sanchez Art Center (1220 Linda Mar Blvd #B, Pacifica, CA) from Aug - Sept 2012

Also shown for a Connect2Korea Art Exhibit, where I served as Coordinator and Artist @ Francis Hall in St. Mary’s Cathedral (1111 Gough St, San Francisco, CA) on Nov 15, 2014

“A Material Girl” came from a desire I had to tell stories through objects. I grew up in the 1980’s and 1990’s in a generation that knows and loves excess, particularly in the form of material goods. It was a time when Madonna’s “Material Girl” image reigned large, and the global impact of consumerist materialism can be seen and felt in today’s society.

What I wanted to unpack in fifty panels is how we also are able to relate ourselves to certain objects that aren’t merely a part of this negative cycle of materialism, but hold meaning in our lives because they tell the story of who we are and what we have lived. In that sense, these panels are autobiographical because they tell what I have lived since that is what I know.

Philosopher David Hume believed that our minds were like separate frames, and we lived each moment in the present frame. We had only what we could taste in our mouths, feel with our hands, smell in the air, hear and see in the environment around us. We had no way of connecting each frame. This way of thinking is anathema for a Kantian Idealist, but I found myself drawing inspiration from this idea while creating each individual panel. Each panel is its own story for me and for you. They are not connected, and yet within the framework, you can see the outlines of a girl: her hair, her raised fist, her shaded eyes, booted feet, the hand that wears the glove, a whole person.

The Red Frame

Found Object Installation for A PLACE OF HER OWN (Juried Exhibition), Curated by Cynthia Tom and Kimi Taira @ SOMArts Cultural Center (939 Brannan St, San Francisco, CA) during May 2011

My project, “The Red Frame,” originated from a desire to become more real, a desire that arose from being a Korean adoptee and realizing that part of myself was missing. Thus, I began a journey to locate those missing pieces, which led me to the questions: What is my story? What is my life concept? What is the frame for my story?

A place of my own is a space that can hold all of my questions and all of the possibilities in life. It is layered, and each layer is a part of me: a possibility, a memory, a question or an answer. In my piece, I follow different red threads to explore all of these possibilities for existence. I take the idea of the red threads from the Chinese adage that says an invisible red string ties us all to the ones we love. The ones in our past, future, and whom we never knew.

In my space, imagination and reality are blurred, but my objects are solid and concrete. The six frames symbolize my search for a way to frame my story, a journey that is found in the liminal space between real life and what can only be conjured or imagined.

Standing in front of a door is a liminal moment. The door itself is a frame. What is behind it? What is beyond it? What does the frame itself hold?

Photo by Bob Hsiang

Photo by Bob Hsiang

Who we are shapes the questions we ask, and the answers we form. My doors are red-hot and ready to be reformed. They are large, narrow and full of possibilities.

“The Red Frame” began as a lyrical essay exploring emotions of happiness, sadness and fear in relation to the questions: What is my story and what is my frame? As I was writing, I kept thinking that a significant part of the puzzle was missing, an important layer to my story. The absence was that disconnection between the abstract thoughts and feelings in my mind and the physical quality of making something appear in the world, such as giving birth to a life or these objects in my installation. The space created here is another threshold.

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