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Question: First off, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. Being a young artist I think you can be a great inspiration for students. I was personally blown away by your show at Grimaldis, the quality of the paint, the combination of flat and rendered imagery, but we can get into this later. Could you first introduce yourself (background, education, how you’ve come to this point as an artist)?

Hidenori: I was born and raised in Japan up until I moved to the US when I was eighteen for my college education. At first, I came to the college to study environmental science not fine art in Washington, DC area. Back then, my communication skill in English was very poor so I tended to enjoy activities involving less talk, so I spent many hours visiting the National Gallery of Art and Hirshhorn Museum in the Smithsonian Institution. And then, I started taking some art classes in college around that time. Yet still with the limited language, the only way to learn how to paint was from observing at old masters works like Rembrandt and Vermeer at the museum. I had almost no formal training in art except for the few years of painting class I was taking when I was ten, and also had no experience of viewing actual classical western paintings. So it was quite fascinating for me to be able to actually see those paintings in person and study from them. I remember this was the transitional time I changed my mind to study art instead. So in college, I was making figurative work with the academic/traditional approach.
I still continued working on figurative narrative work in my first graduate school year at MICA, but this was the time I began to learn more from the contemporary artists after many dialogues with Dominique Nahas, a critic-in-residence in the graduate program. My concern towards the environmental subject drifted into my work and I started to look for my paintings to suggest transformations, erosions and constructions of improbable environments, with my interest in visual and symbolic dialogue of between man’s intention and nature’s inevitabilities.
After the graduation, I moved to New York and had worked for Takashi Murakami as a studio assistant in his Brooklyn (later Long Island City) studio for about two years. During that time period, I had the hardest time in making my own work, but I slowly came back to my own studio practice and started to make new body of work. After the assistant job, I also worked as a graphic designer in the fashion industry while making paintings in my studio and had the Grimaldis show you saw in January.

Q: Being a cross-cultural artist, what type of cultural influences do you draw from and how has transitioning from culture to culture affected your work?
H: As I mentioned, I spent my youth in Japan so I think my mind and thoughts were developed through the Japanese cultural context. But, the influence of Western culture is apparent in many aspects in Japanese culture, or I’d say the country retains its own culture or mixes some western concepts with its very own. In my youth, I grew up with video games in 80’s, western music, movies and favored animations such as Miyazaki Films and Akira like other kids, and those films often have apocalyptic and environmental messages. I spent time in the suburb where I had many interactions with nature. So I think my concern towards the environment in nature grew from both the actual contact and fantasy. I wouldn’t say I was influenced by animation in general directly, but could say the graphic aspect of those video games and how you play and roll in the two dimensional surface created by pixilation, relates to the structures of my paintings. Anyway, I think my work aesthetically has some reference to the pop culture, and yet the traditional formal training in western art is the backbone of my work.

Q: What benefits and limitations do you face from this cultural position?

H: As for limitations, some people would make assumption of my work from the look of my work and where I’m from, but I don’t think what I’m doing is necessarily related to what people call Japanese pop art, even though I make reference to the culture and use some of the elements as methods. And for benefits, the ambiguity of cultural identity could be helpful for creating some hybrids.

Q: The extreme care you put into the physical qualities of the canvas is automatically evident when viewing your painting. What type of processes do you go through to prepare theses surfaces and why is it important to you that these paintings have an immaculate finish? Do you feel like sensibilities from artist like Takeshi Murakami have informed this approach? (I read about your apprenticeship with him from your interview with Cara Ober)

H: I spend a lot of time to get the right physical quality/surface in my paintings. I don’t necessarily have only flat or spotless finish on my work; some areas have visible brush strake and raised surface. I’m painting images on canvas, but I’m not interested only in the pictorial quality of image itself but also how it’s perceived in the physical space. I want viewers to look at the images through painting as object in the space. I think this comes from my belief that painting is where actuality and possibility meet with one’s. The ultimate flatness of surface actually creates more of undefined dimension when you engage with it in two-dimensional space, and I experienced that in Murakami’s painting when I was working for him. But, I actually started being conscious about it when I first saw James Turrell’s “Meeting”. In his installation, I sat under and looked up the squared open sky surrounded by the white ceiling and four walls. I experienced both flat and infinite space going back and forth through the framed open-ended sky with the altered spatial perception. Then, once a bird flew into the open famed space, the flying bird became an image in the undefined space/dimension. After that, I wanted to create the similar visual experience of figuration in the undefined dimension with the complete flatness within my painting. That’s why it’s important for me to have the immaculate surface in some areas.
So, for the process I can’t really have 100% finished simulations of painting at first. But the way I make paintings is very systematic, so I try to think about the painting processes backwards before I start and then follow each process to have the right physicality at the end. And of course, each process is requires different treatments, but the priming and sanding take a lot of time.

Q: Can you talk about your color palette?

A: I started to use the teal color for water (or reflected sky) in some of pool paintings. Then somehow, it became significant for me to depict the flat or infinite water space in other work, too. The black signifies the dark or reflected darkness, and the saturate colors in the dark indicate the colors of light.

Q: The thing about your paintings that impressed me the most were the variety of painting techniques and applications you were able to synthesize with a very contemporary way of perceiving 2-dimensional space.
While viewing your paintings I began to make connections to animation, design, pixilation – do you draw inspiration from these sources?

H: Yes, I carry some elements from them to my work. However, as I mentioned earlier, I don’t necessarily make connections with animation as much. My interest in pixilation comes from the graphic aspect of video games and also some pixilation of digital images. When I transfer the image of pixilation from the screen to canvas, the abstracted pixilation on screen transforms into the representational one on canvas through the depiction. But, I like how the depicted representational pixilation once again serves as geometric flat abstraction to define the space next to figuration in paintings.

Q: So this may be a rather unfair question, but your paintings feel very Japanese or at least contemporary Asian (perhaps it is the color scheme, the precision, pop-art sensibility.) What is it about contemporary Asian art that differs from the West? How are the polarities being synthesized?

H: I think how we got to this point as contemporary art now in Asian and western countries are historically different and it also involves the difference of many aspects like culture, philosophy, religion and so on, so it’s probably the reflection of those things.
But the globalization in art has created a complex network of artistic exchange in both Asian and Western contemporary art in many ways and the fluidity of it takes a big role in synthesizing the polarities. But also, even when we talk about it from the perspective of western art history or how it’s perceived in the context to the western audience or market, so it could be just how we see them in the history of art.

Q: Icebergs are a reoccurring image in your paintings. Can you elaborate on this?

H: The image of icebergs started appearing in my paintings after having spent some time in Iceland. When I traveled in the country, I was just fascinated by the unexpected form and the rawness of nature. The land was well preserved quite primitively, yet their ecological system was very advanced and sustainable with the use of energies such as geothermal energy and hydrogen duel. Then I started thinking about this structure of community which is in the shape of glacier floating in the water, containing the ecological system that could serve fro human needs, as a response to possible global climate catastrophe. That’s why the icebergs with green plants inside often appear in my paintings and I am painting them sort of like a character at this point.

Q: What are your sources of daily inspiration/motivation?

H: I just think of where my work would go and how I can get it improved, and that actually gives me an excitement for the next pieces. I also think it’s very inspiring for me to spend time with other artist friends, talking with them about our work or what we saw at exhibitions out in the would.

Interview by Ellice Park and Hidenori


Californians Teresa & Serena Wu shared with us their experiences and ongoing adventures since they founded and This project, launched by creative assignment, garnered immense popularity within its first week, and will become a book published by Penguin’s Perigee books. “F.O.B.” standing for “fresh off (the) boat”, used to be a derogatory term for immigrants, but through their good-natured humor, “fob: is evolving into a more beloved and endearing term.  We tip our super-size sun visors to visionary and accidental pioneers like Teresa & Serena.

Ellice Park: How do you manage your two sites?

Teresa Wu: Serena manages, I manage  She takes care of the technical stuff, and I run the social media stuff.

Jenny Robinson: Was there a particular incident that inspired you two to make these sites?

TW: I had done a creative writing assignment for one of my classes where I just strung together a bunch of emails and conversations I had with my mom and it got a really awesome response from the prof/class.  I’d always posted funny snippets from my mom in my blog so I mentioned the idea to Serena and she thought it’d be funny too.  We started gathering emails from out own moms and from our friends and… site was born =)

JR: Did you and your friends ever get feedback about the site from your parents?

TW: Serena’s mom thinks it’s hilarious and wants to be friends with all the other Asian moms, with my mom, I have to explain all the posts to her because she’s so fobby she doesn’t understand why they’re funny.

EP: Were you and Serena born/raised in California?  I lived in CA for two years and it was basically Asia #2.

TW: We were both born/raised in California, in Fremont which is SUPER Asian.  Our high school was 70% Asian.  I think having a big community of Asians around made it easier to celebrate our fobbiness.

EP: Being in a diversely Asian community, do you see yourselves as just Asian American, or do you identify with your ethnicity?

TW: I definitely see myself as Taiwanese American… if you grew up in a less diverse area I could see why you might just identify as Asian American, but since we have SO MANY ethnicities I do think people identify with their individual cultures.

Serena Wu: same, in high school we had multicultural week and a lot of my friends were Indian and we’d attend their Indian potluck parties once in awhile, so it was a good mix.  But I never really thought of myself as Taiwanese American until I started attending Taiwanese American conferences and such.

EP: I feel that it is awesome that you two created something that doesn’t enhance the lines between Asians, but rather unifies Asian Americans and yet, how pronounced each ethnicity might be?

SW: Freshmen year of college, I had this discussion w/my roommate who went to a school in Los Angeles which was also very Asian, and she said there was an intense Chinese vs. Taiwanese debate at her High School, though that was never an issue for us at our high school.  Everyone was just… friends.  No one was really I’M KINDA INDIAN or I’M THIS KINDA CHINESE. Wasn’t very… discriminatory.  The community itself was very multicultural and everyone embraced each other’s cultural differences.

TW: The thing that’s great about the site is that yeah, we do have distinctly different identities, but Asian Americans all grew up with so many similarities, things like our parent’s attitudes towards academics… sex… you name it.

SW: The sites aren’t very representative of our backgrounds necessarily; since we get submissions from literally, all sorts of people even Russian immigrants.  The sites show how we’re never really self-conscious or embarrassed about having first-generation parents because most, if not all of our friends did as well, so it was never like we experienced any racial stereotyping, name-calling, any of that

EP: Has the way you viewed the project evolved at all?

SW: The project has definitely evolved, I mean we started it as something just for fun, but Now we’re being published by Penguin’s perigee books, definitely something we’d ever imagine happening.  Oh we had Margaret Cho write our intro though, that was nice of her.

EP: Congratssss =)

JR: What I really liked about the site was that it brings humor to fobbiness when I think my mom was insecure about her own fobbiness, it was great when I shower her the site and she was able to find humor in the fobbiness that made her insecure in our dominantly white community.

SW: Yeah I’m glad your moms enjoy the sites, my mom actually wants me to connect her with other moms, I think they have the comfort of knowing that “hey, I say that to my kids as well” or “I have the same set of values” etc.  Whereas, kids find comfort knowing, hey, I’m not the only person with a misspelled name or its not so weird that I wasn’t allowed to date until college, etc.  And then there’s an audience who just wants to read a bit of humor, even if they can’t really relate and even that’s good because they begin to understand a bit more about our social pressures or traditional values. Example, why we never talk about sex openly lol; why our parents blatantly call us fat all the time etc.  I’d say a lot of the things parents say are… so common among all parents lol.  Every time we read another submission we’re like, HAHA about that again.

TW: Yeah, there are so many things people probably think are stories unique to them, but it happens over and over, for example, moms ordering doggy-style fries instead of animal style fries.

JR: What are some of your favorite submissions?

SW: Online predator,

TW: My favorite entries are pretty much the top rated ones lol

SW: This one where a dad creates a rubric for datable guys,

and I actually know the person who submitted it; shes my neighbor and her mom was my piano teacher lol.

JR: It sounds like you guys started this as a local site for you and your friends but at what point did it get so popular? Did anything happen to enhance its popularity?

SW: haha ok, so we started on tumblr, huge reblogging community, reached over 60,000 hits in one week so had to switch the site over to a self-hosted blog and we also created the dad site all within a week.  I’m glad we made the switch so early otherwise it would’ve been a hassle redirecting people, etc.  Anyway, then exactly a year ago when Teresa was in Cyprus studying abroad our servers were overwhelmed, cause we were reaching all-time hits and we were banned from bluehost 3x so I had to made another switch to linode. Much, more space, more bandwidth.  Hoping it’ll last us lol.  We get most of our publicity from our facebook fan page, I’d say and just word of mouth, oh an the occasional from SFGate, CNNgo, oh in the beginning it was all thanks to angryasianman, disgrasian, and neatorama featuring us.

EP: Just one last question, what do you wish we asked you? And

what do you want people to know about you and

your projects?

SW: So occasionally, we get the angry email about us spurring racial stereotypes, or not respecting our parents, especially as Asians who are supposed to be extremely obedient and polite. In all honesty, we never meant the sites to be negative in any way.  We never meant to just make fun of our parents; it’s more of the idea of sharing the cute things our parents say and people submit because they WANT TO, not because they’re embarrassed. (otherwise they would never submit stuff)  We wanted to create this sharing community and embrace our cultural differences and show that there really isn’t anything to be embarrassed about… oh your mom is a fob? Well so is mine.  She can’t spell either.  But hey, we are a unique generation; there’s only going to be one 2nd generation with 1st generation parents.  It’s a but challenging at times because they’re trying to understand us and we’re trying to accept their traditional values and ideas.  But we’re all overcoming communication barriers, generation gaps, and cultural differences together and that’s worthy of documenting.

To get some more fobby goodness, go to & Keep your eyes open for their upcoming book, which will be published by Penguin Perigree books this fall.

Interview conducted by Ellice Park and Jenny Robinson 2010

“Knowing how to communicate and understand others is fundamental to art as well as life.” – James Wu

Senior Printmaking major at MICA, James Wu sat down with Microcosm staff to discuss his current body of work entitled Trading Cards. These pocket-sized black and white etchings feature common accessories used in contemporary sexualized images (hair, high heels, dancing poles, etc.) while the figure remains an absent silhouette. The series started just after he purchased a box of adult magazines from a sidewalk sale and is in response to his traditional Baptist upbringing where the environment heavily repressed and stigmatized all forms of sexuality. In an attempt to understand and further explore traditional notions of propriety and the ‘what’ that makes an image inappropriate, Wu has opted to focus on the objects originally used to conceal the models. He says his work looks at “sexualized” images without the need for flesh.” Currently he is working with the placement of accessories and the audience’s imagination to fill in the image. Wu likes to ask the question, “What else besides the figure could be sexy about the image?”

Read the rest of this entry »

Jae Lee just recently graduated from MICA with a Bachelor of Fine Arts under the Painting department.  She is also, an alumni from MICROCOSM, and among the first group of student that started this publication.  Her article Enlgish only is available to read on her site. Her paintings of flat areas of color and text reading TEACH ENLGISH!, or O Say Can UC, speak about her cultural experiences coming to the United States from Korea and becoming a citizen.  Since graduation she has been working and waiting for pending replies from grad schools. and during the inclement weather in which we  found ourselves stranded with little to do, we caught up with each other in an interview through a casual and informal chat, which is appropriate since it is similar to the informal approach she uses with her work and with her identity as an artist.

Jenny Robinson: How have you been since graduating from MICA?

Jae Lee: I’ve been doing all right, just working.  I haven’t really talked about my works to people that I don’t know on a personal level, I am still shy to talk about my works. I don’t want to label myself as an artist, such a sophisticated term for me to describe myself.

JR: Instead of “artist” what do you prefer being called?

JL: painter.  When I am asked what I do for a living, I usually say painter, so one time this person I never met before asked me back, you’re a “painter”?  He meant by painter, who really paint for a living, not like artist.   As you can see, anyone can paint like me.  Someone wrote in my guestbook,  “Seriously, anyone can paint like you.” I liked the comment.  I think I like casual and informality.

JR: It does offer less prestige than the traditional studio practice of painting, similar to how you feel about the title or painter in relation to the title “artist”

JL: Its funny before I got in art school, MICA, I never found myself that way.  Now that I think about it, I didn’t have a dream until sophomore year.  I just wanted to graduate, get a decent job, and have happily ever after.  I was still critical in a way, but I never got it out to people or to my works.  I was very self-conscious and I am a bit still.

JR: Last time I talked to you I believe you were a first semester senior.  I believe you were working on a series of chalkboard paintings.  These paintings had chalkboard paint on canvas with a phrase written as though on a chalkboard in different languages. Can you describe to me how you created this series?

JL: Lets see, it seems like a long time ago although it was, in fact a bit more than a year ago when I created them.  I guess it had to do with my cross-cultural experiences as well in living in the states as an immigrant.  I was interested in multi-culture in the states. I used to go to ESL class in community college, and I met people from all over the world.  Those people I met in the class all tried to adopt this new culture/society in the states by learning English having same culture background, non-English speaking world. It was interesting to hear their unique accent and background. of course we always started conversation with asking each other “how do you say hello in your language?”  Those people I met in the class all tried to adopt this new culture/society in the states by learning English having same culture background, non-English speaking world.  It was interesting to see the transformation of language, which one can easily make.

JR: I was once told that with every language one speaks they carry a different personality with the mannerism and the cultural aspects the language carries.

JL: I agree by learning English I learned many aspects of Western cultures as well.  I guess I can say I’m pretty much bilingual now.  English is a good language to use when I want to direct someone like giving a driving Very informative. It can be incredibly intense in a short sentence, while I think Korean is emotional.

JR: Do you feel then than you adopt different mannerisms when you speak English and Korean?

JL: I think so, I guess another mannerism one could get when he or she learns a new language and adopt new society is self-consciousness.  You have to watch out yourself first.

JR: I find that no matter how cautious I am sometimes I make some very silly and embarrassing mistakes in Korean

JL: Haha you know it! But I figured, you shouldn’t be afraid of that, people take it in a good way most of times, however it is still hard to be yourself when you speak in your second language.

JR:  Yeah it can be very hard to express how you feel when you can’t find the right words to describe it.

JL: true, I think that everyone should try and learn another language.  People will experience a whole different world, and that will be an opportunity to find themselves in another perspective too.

JR:  I recently saw photos of your senior thesis, it seems that the aesthetics of the American flag indicate a large presence of American in your work.

JL: Yes the blue, red, and white, but those colors are commonly used in flags for European countries like France.

JR: And now that I think of it, on the Korean flag as well.

JL: Yes, I guess blue and red are the symbol of the liberal and conservative/traditional.  Maybe people wanted to mix those two in their flag to keep the balance between the two. Yin and Yang.  I also found the two colors are often used in signs in the States, more common than ones in Korea.  Americans are very patriotic. I guess I just naturally chose two colors for my theme influenced by these things.

JR: You have very strong text in your work, such as TEACH ENGLISH! Reminds me of the pressure in the US and abroad on English learning.

JL: Yeah I agree.  English learning is so intense in Korea now.  Parents even send their kids to English kindergarten.  I heard speaking English is not an optional thing in Korea.  It is a mandatory thing to do in order to survive.  However I don’t like how native English speakers somehow take advantage of it.  I was just chatting with some people I know, one said, “ I want to go travel” and the other simply said, “Teach English!” I am not sure teaching English is that easy which one can simply take to go on and travel.  The piece is from my personal experience.

JR: What else would you recommend instead of teaching English?

JL: If you would like to go on a travel that means you are willing to learn their culture, not influence people into your culture.  Like you said, ever language one speaks carries the cultures and mannerisms with different personality.  I think so; I guess that’s the true meaning of travel.

JR: Considering you had to adopt a new language when you moved here, it does make sense that others should extend the same courtesy when visiting other countries.

JL: I believe so, especially for English speakers.  Now English is a universal language. I decided to come to the states; I have to do what I have to do.  I guess I just need a little bit of aid to set up myself in order to live here like getting a drivers license. In fact I took the written driving test in Korean, which was very helpful.  I think the United States has enough educational system to get people to learn English such as ESL courses offered by community college, which I did, and teachers in the program are very nice.  I guess they have to be nice and patient right?

JR: very true, when I am teaching Korean to English speaking kids at summer camp patience is important.

JL: However this merit and virtue of the United States might disappear soon.  They already got rid of the written driving test in other languages.  Now new immigrants have to take the exam in English no matter what.  I made a piece about this too.

JR:  Are you trying to communicate a political statement or are these paintings more about your self-exploration about you own feelings of English, and communication, or is it a combination of both?

JL: It started from my self-introspection/reflection, but it came out to be a strong political statement in a sense.  I think where I stand here in the States as a person is critical, and political, I can’t deny.  I am an Asian female who just came to the states what more can I say.   It is an emotional product of living 6 years in the states.

Jenny Robinson 2010

Couples come together in all different kinds of ways. Some of us are set up through friends or family. Others bump into each other as strangers and launch into fantastic conversation. Some others go online. With others, it’s through a shared activity, whether it be regular like school or the workplace, or not so regular, but beloved like a hobby. And with still others, we meet as friends, become best friends, and then take a leap of faith–or gamble–and try being lovers.

Here are a few stories of the couples around us at MICA. Happy Valentine’s Day.

featured couples' portraits

Sarah & Minku; Kyle & Flora; Colleen & Vance; John & Ellice

Painting, First(s)
Kyle & Flora

Kyle Says…
It was my freshman year at MICA. Flora was a sophomore, but I took sophomore painting the spring of my freshman year, so we were in the same class. But the sophomore painting class was divided into different sections and with different teachers, so we didn’t talk to each other. We both went on MICA Bus Trip to New York in the spring and got to know each other. At the end of the trip, we exchanged numbers. We were casually acquainted for a year. The next semester, fall of my sophomore year, I took the Exhibition Development Seminar and saw that Flora was in the class as well. I sat next to her because I didn’t know anybody else. We were also in Color Abstraction  together. In the Exhibition Development Seminar, the class is divided into teams. Flora and I decided to join the Education team, and we worked together the whole semester organizing all the public programming for the Laure Drogul Exhibition. Through this process, we got closer and started to hang out more. By the spring, we went to parties and picnics together and started dating  after spring break (March 21, 2009). We’ve been dating for nearly a year now and its been going pretty great.

Flora Says… Kyle is basically my “first everything”. He is my first real boyfriend (the last Boyfriend I had was in middle school, and I don’t really count that anymore because we were too young to know anything.) He is my first who took me out for romantic dinners, he is my first to surprise me with flowers randomly, he is my first guy to make me a birthday card (I always make birthday cards for my friends and family but I never receive a handmade card back), he is my first romantic date at the beach, he is my first sand digging partner, he is my first to make a trip to the Baltimore Book Festival–a memorable night, he is my first doctor who treated me with warm blankets and tea when we were both sick, he is my first experience of flying to another state to meet his family and relatives, he is my first to rush down to the harbor with to watch the sunset and then missing it and getting ice cream instead, he is my first to walk in a snow storm with at 3 am and running and giggling around with our arms spread out in the snow and he is the first person I wake up to when I sleep over at his place, and lastly he is my first compassionate lover. As much as all of these things sound corny and sappy they are all memories that I cherish and are things that remind me of how much he means to me and how much he is a great part of me and my life.

A Wrinkle On-Line Sows Seed
John & Ellice

Ellice Says…

Meeting John wasn’t anything extraordinary, yet he was my breath of fresh air as he whisked me off my feet. I thought I was meeting someone to figure out the identity of a stranger who friended me on facebook, but we ended up talking for 10.5 hours straight. The backdrop to this scenario? I was in the middle of cleaning up the mess of an LDR (long distance relationship), finding my own place in a new church-home, and saying “yes” to the sudden opportunities handed to me. I wasn’t looking for a relationship, but an escape. I wasn’t looking for romance, I was looking for love. I wasn’t looking for a significant other, but a trustworthy friend. John told me later that he fell in love with me the first night we met, but it wasn’t that way for me. He filled each need I had at the time, and became my best friend. Then he went a little beyond and demonstrated his natural ability and desire to be more than that for me, and I fell in love. Becoming a couple was an adventure. I rejected him countless times. But all the while, I told my parents early on that “I met this guy, he’s really sweet and his family’s like our family,” bla bla bla. Considering they raised me talking about my future married identity for as long as I can remember, they were naturally very excited. Six months later, he came to visit my family. It was the first time I talked about a guy or brought one home for inspection. My parents got cold feet, then ice cold before going lukewarm. It’s as though they were playing the part I played for the past six months. Even though I was ready to stop meeting him casually and become a couple. Another eight months later and my parents are learning to walk through the rite of passage of recognizing that their 21-year-old daughter is timely with her dating and not premature. At the same time, I’m learning to balance who I am in this relationship with who John is, how we grew up–and taking the best of the lessons but leaving the not-so-good, and also learning to maintain a balance of who we are as a couple in relation to others who may or may not be couples, and may or may not be young adults. We’re also developping spiritual and faithful awareness as a couple, not only as individuals. In learning, I find myself falling in love over and over again. And John, he just tells me he falls deeper in love.

John Says…

^^ What she said.

Although I love Ellice to death, she can be MAJOR pain in the butt. Sometimes…
No, most of the time.

John, who runs and ducks for cover.

Harmonious Connections
Colleen & Vance

Colleen Says…

My boyfriend Vance and I have been high school sweethearts for about 2 years now. In the beginning, the first sparks of our friendship started out with our intimate connections to music. Sharing interests in music that were filled with lively energy and emotional resonance inspirited our hearts. Our love for various rhythmic melodies with poetic verses in music later lead to more interpersonal, heart-to-heart chats about other captivating moments in our lives. He is genuine, compassionate, energetic, and open-minded unlike any other person I’ve ever known. Eventually, as our personalities intertwined, the sparks of our friendship ignited into a fire of passion after realizing just how special we are to each other. On January 5, 2008 we made our relationship official after having a perfect night skating at Iceworld. Throughout these last few months, we’ve spent some of the best moments we’ve ever had in our lives together. There have been a few challenges along our path but we have overcome our weaknesses together to become even stronger today.
I guess we’ve proven to others that traditional morals and values have changed nowadays. Our interracial relationship shows our open-mindedness and high social tolerance for people of all cultures. It shouldn’t matter what color your skin is, but the colorful personality in your heart is what matters the most. The colors in his heart have inspired and painted one of the most beautiful and memorable pictures of my life.

Vance Says…

Since the day I met Colleen, I never would have thought that I would be in such a heartfelt relationship. We met in our school bus and started to become close during my junior year of high school. We shared our thoughts on music and she introduced me to tennis. Colleen then invited me to her 17th birthday party where we made an even deeper connection. After exchanging contact information, we then shared personal feelings over instant messenger. We officially became a couple on January 5th after our first date at Iceworld. Like any normal relationship we have had our ups and downs, but we did not let that break us. We have used these setbacks to make our relationship even stronger. Colleen and I are a very passionate interracial couple and someday we want to have pretty blasian babies. I do not think our different races have affected our relationship. Colleen has been a great influence in my life and I love her very much. This is just the beginning of our wonderful relationship.

Melodious Romance
Minku & Sarah

Minku Says…

This is a brief summary of what happened between us.
We first met fall of freshmen year in the piano room. Sarah was playing a song by Eric Satie which I had just been listening to on a cd and I was in the laundry room where I could hear the piano. I went to the piano room saying , “Eric Satie!” which shocked her. She stopped playing and turned to see who was barging in. We introduced ourselves and for the rest of the semester would occasionally play piano together but nothing else. Second semester we talked more and eventually went to a jazz concert together, again bonding through music. We ended going to the Jazz formal together and that got both of us out of our shells enough to realize we wanted a deeper relationship. Since then we have become extremely close and are rarely apart from each other.
Even though we come from different places we have a similar desire for ethnic and delicious food, good music, playing piano, teaching each other our languages, painting.

A side note from Sarah

I have always been fascinated with other cultures so the fact that Minku is initially from a different place is very exciting for me. I am trying to learn Korean with great help from his mom as well as himself. I loved learning to use chopsticks and eating sushi. The language barrier is sometimes confusing but often just very funny and not harmful. The funniest would probably be when he said, “what a lovely bitch” when he really meant, “what a lovely beach” 🙂

We have both spent time with each others family in New Mexico and New York so we have a greater understanding of where we each come from. It was great for me when I went to NYC with Minku because he is such a ‘big city’ person and was confident to show me around the chaos of the city. In reverse he loved going hiking with me in New Mexico and seeing a way of living very different from the city.
Our year anniversary is in March and we are both very happy to celebrate the past wonderful year together.
Stories Collected & 1 Written by Ellice Park

Q: So it’s really interesting that your work as to do with the liminal space in physical atmosphere where there is no fear of political correctness, because the atmosphere belongs to nobody.  And yet, the skies are in a way, owned, according to what section floats above which plot of land.  For example, when the polluted air of one of the northeaster USA states ‘leaked’ into a neighboring state;s air and damaged the air quality there were huge legal bickering over the responsibility of this issue.  You said that you feel comfortable floating in the air, seated within an airplane , because it is a space that allows ultimate relaxation– but only that activity.  Is the work you make pertaining to skies planes mostly focused on the airplane experience?

HS: I think I use airplane images over and over for my artworks.  I think that airplane made it possible for people to travel easily.  People travel.  Some like myself end up staying destination.  Airplane image come with many meaning for me with different mixture of emotion.  Like yoy mentioned, being air is equalizing experience for anyone in the plane.  No Matter who you are, your life is temporarily suspended in the sky.  Rich or poor, tall or short, dark skin or light skin, sick or healthy, man, or woman, … you are above clouds in the sky.  Being air always remind me that how small I am.  How big the world is… I feel humble when I am in the air…  Also being air is unusual and beautiful experience.  Who does not get excited when you see sun hit white clouds under your eye level.

Q:  Do you have an interest or concern for the fact that air moves but land does not move as quickly, so that while everybody takes care to try to pollute less, they can have territorial qualms?

HS: When you are on the land, you are too close to whatever your situation.  It is hard to be objective when you are too close to something.  In the air you are more objective to yourself including human activity  in general.  Territorial qualms seem silly when you are in air.

Q:  What do you wish to communicate through you work other than your experience and lifestyle of going continuously back and forth from your motherland to other places via opportunities art ushers?  Or it the subjective experience the ultimatum of a canvas for an artist– namely yourself in this case?

HS:  I think the idea of my work is pretty simple.  Most people agree that stormy clouds from airplane window is beautiful.  Most people may have imagined jumping into clouds.  Also, most people think about stuff when they are in air like their past or memories.  Because I am an artist, I have a desire to fix those floating thought.  If I am a writer, I probably will write about it.  If my image remind or recall people similar experience I have, I will be happy.

Q: Is it preferable for a viewer to agree and say that living in air, living in air, living in the skies, traveling there, or having (perhaps frequent) periods of time spent in the sky to be a preferred practice?

HS:  Spending time in the sky is giving a different perspective to people.  It is not as dramatic as an astronaut look the earth from space shuttle but, it is closest experience normal people could experience.

Q:  What brings you to work visually?  What instigates or inspires you?  How often do you think of where you came from and other past memories– these themes which seem to perpetually voice out from you work?

HS:  My process of art making is pretty organic.  Idea come from many sources, such as movie, photograph, other artists works, art history, literature, toys, child plays, memories, or my own works from past.  I usually carry small notebook.  I make small sketches whenever Idea comes to my brain.  It often happen when I sit at cafe by myself.  Then later if I need to have solid information in order to make artworks, I research or do more specific drawing.  So, my work is reflection of my everyday experience and my background including memories.  Both voice are equally important for my art making process.  Some of my work is based on an idea from when I was 10 years old boy.  I am finally able to depict it by using art training.  To me, Making art work is taking care of unfinished business.

Q:  Is art making a means to an end or does the process matter more to you? I wonder this due to the layers of application in some of your pieces, as well as the layers if thought origins that are sort of patched together in a single image piece.

HS:  as an artists, I have desire to fix or depict images or thought in my head on canvas, or paper.  But, I would not know how the image end up till I finish the work.  The process of making often leads another thinking or idea visually and conceptually.  I like the idea od a singel image piece contains so many layer of thinking or aesthetic decision.

Interview between Ellice Park and Hiro Sakaguchi March 2009

Hiro Sakaguchi is a young Japanese artist who earned his MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.  He’s shown his work around Pennsylvania, Japan, and is now branching out to other cities as well including our Baltimore.  His website expresses his interest “in making an object, which contains a fictional realm that is relevant to [his] experience as an artist and an individual in this global society.” As a painter, he creates imaginary worlds addressing contemporary issues related to current events and his hybrid identity as an artist of ethnic color.  His work features  confusion of scale while masterfully handling a light hearted aesthetic.

Microcosm had the pleasure of meeting him at the Maryland Art Place’s Julio Fine Arts Gallery  on the opening night of “Fantastical Imaginings” show. While Ms. J. Susan Isaacs did a wonderful job introducing all the artists featured in the group exhibit, Hiro really came alive in his few minutes in the spotlight.  He has a very engaging speak, largely utilizing theatrical hand gestures, and attentiveness.  What’s best is that the ideas he portrays and speaks of through and by his work is the same as the way he speaks aloud conversationally.  There is no hiding of his being of foreign birth, or at least having lived in a foreign place for a significant portion of his life.  Yet there is a familiarity to it all that makes his foreignness nothing like alienness.  It is all remarkably one and parallel with his artwork.

Hiro features two of his works at the group show, one of them being Chrysanthemum delivery (2009), a graphite and watercolor piece on paper, the other, Over Clouds (2007), a synthetic polymer paint, colored pencil and ink piece on canvas.  Talking to Hiro, it becomes clear that there is a very fluid perception of sense locale and the liberation it allows any given identity.  Over Clouds shows clouds with random variables of objects, persons and architectural details that gives points of reminisce.  As a whole, it almost looks like a print on a child’s pajamas, in that it exudes comfort, buoyancy, airiness, and its manner of rendering the images.  Chrysanthemum’s Delivery, on the other hand, is more objective in its composition with a clear vehicle with a rider, architecture, and landscape.  The geography and all the rest are fantastical as they are drawn out from his memories.  In both images, airplanes and structures resembling airplanes’ curves are features.  Having been in many different places just for his artistic study and profession alone, Hiro’s found himself to be very comfortable in airplanes.

There is something nearly apolitical about the atmosphere that Hiro finds very compelling and useful.  He says that while the airplane makes travel easy, the process of flying in an airplane with  others is also a very democratic experience.  “No matter who you are, your life is temporarily suspended in the sky.  Rich or poor, tall or short, dark skin or light skin, sick of healthy, man or woman, …  When you are on the land, you are too close to whatever your situation.  It is hard to be objective when you are too close to something.  Territorial qualms seem as silly when you are in the air.”  Hiro shares, in the purest way.  There are elements of Japan, elements of Philadelphia in these pieces and throughout his other works, but overall the works are not marked by a certain politick or geography.  There are recollections of experiences in air, with a blurred memory of ground whence the airplane took off of.

originally written by Ellice Park, March 2009, transcribed by Jenny Robinson February 2010

(Image stills are from “NOH-CHIM” at MAP’s “Losing Yourself” ©estherka)

In the teardrop-shaped walk through MAP’s “Losing Yourself”, kate hers’ video “NOH-CHIM” (2006) rests on the curve of the teardrop-shaped tour. In a show full of investigations on what it means to be a female in the 21st century, “NOH-CHIM” fits in with its examination on hers’ question of identity, conversing with the other pieces to be more than just a cultural dialogue on heritage and environment but also incorporating thoughts on gender and placement. It is a eight-minute looped video of her in South Korea performing happenings, sitting as a guest on a Korean show, posting up person-search posters, and then repeating the same happenings in a space where nobody sees and knows what’s going on except herself and the camera.. and then us, the viewers.

Conversing with hers, it becomes searingly revealed that as viewers, it is easy to lose sight of the overall because of our specific interests–finding comfort in the parts of her video which make sense with our own experiences, finding discomfort in the dizzying displacement so jarringly confronted, or for some, perhaps the reverse of what I just described. The point isn’t that hers is lost, or that we’re now aware of conclusions, or that this is art, or that this is not art, or that this is real and to be dealt with, or that this is a construction and therefore partially fictional–there might not be a point at all. Do we have to find a point? “NOH-CHIM” translates to that which is lost, from Korean to English. How can we ever find a point?

Whether or not our identities are ever discovered through the chaos of uncountable taxonomic categories beckoning our self-division, we can use our stories and experiences and dizziness to recognize potentials for change. Change for someone else, perhaps someone younger, so that they don’t have to go through what we went through. Each new generation is a promise of something potentially greater with unpredictable change.

So the conversation turns with the loop of “NOH-CHIM” onto hers’ current video-in-the-works, “Vanishing Horizon”. The work-in-progress is an artistic documentary, providing some history of the region and its name change, but mostly showing the children of the orphanage and how much love and care they are given from the orphanages’ founder, Tendol Gyazler who became an orphan by accident at a tender young age. There is a lone tree swaying against a backdrop of rolling green hills and cotton-swab-thick clouds. Stacks of rice fill an entire building whose doors are wide open, pigs are in crates at the city market, workers with trucks, blissful children with dirty faces, we get glimpses of the Tibet around Gyazler’s two orphanages. The children joke with each other, throwing up peace signs, skipping down cobbled walkways, swinging high on playsets and doing traditional festivities. It seems no matter where we are in the world, children share a universal trait liveliness and glee when playing, unaware of anything but the present moments.

This project was funded through the Pacific Rim Grant at University of California, inspired by relationships, and realized through collaboration in friendship–all towards recognizing and raising awareness along with funds for two orphanages in Tibet.

With kate hers, the viewer grows to see art’s ability to instigate change in dialogue: away from engaging others in our dizzying search to settle–at times, inherited–displacement, and towards helping the future’s children enjoy life without the distraction of questions which may never get answered.

To see her work in progress, Click Here.

“Losing Yourself” at MAP will be up until March 27th, 2010–Be sure to visit!

Ellice Park

“English Only” is a political movement aimed at establishing English as the only permissible language allowed in use of all government legislation, communications, forms, and actions.  The movement’s overarching goal is to set English as the United State’s official language, not necessarily eliminating the use of “foreign” languages but definitely undermining them.

The most recent event related to English Only took place in Nashville, Tennessee.  The amendment put forward by English Only advocates was voted against on January 22nd, 2009. Fortunately, the proposal was denied.  The proposed charter amendment 1 and 2 basically read: no person shall have a right to government services in any other language other than English. Over 40,000 voters were against ratification of the amendment while about 30,000 voters were for the amendment.

I am particularly bias against this event because it greatly affects me as an immigrant who is still making a place for myself in the United States. When I first got off the flight at Dulles Airport from Korea six years ago, I felt like I needed to change my clothes, not because they were dirty or anything but because I felt like I needed to prepare in becoming a new person. The flight was thirteen hours long, I was tired but pleased to feel a sense of nostalgia of the only other trip I made to America eleven years ago.  Of course that time I came as a tourist visiting family, this time I came as an immigrant.  There was a strange intermingling of the tasty, buttery sensation of America I remembered feeling as ten-year-old girl and the new anxiety and gathering of strength I was feeling as an immigrant.  When I landed at J.F.K airport back in the summer of 1992, I saw popcorn and delighted in its smell.  Eleven years later at Dulles, I could smell the popcorn again.  I knew things were completely different now, to start off with I was in an entirely different airport. Yet I kept going back to the same feelings I felt as a kid, as a tourist, full of giddy delusions of America.  It wasn’t until I remember that I wasn’t going back that it hit me. I booked a one-way ticket, not round-trip that summer in 2003.

Six years later, I became a naturalized citizen of the United States.  I pledged an oath of allegiance and denounced any loyalties to South Korea. I had a new motherland now. For the ceremony, speaking the oath of allegiance in English was worthwhile. It bound me with the other naturalizing citizens in the ceremony with me. But I knew that these English words were probably just as hollow, if not more, to many of these new citizens.  If there was any real oath to be pledged, it would be said in our mother tongues.  Even though the English Only proposition is limited to the communications and actions of government, it sounds, to me, like the first comers bossing around new comers. Learn or Leave despite the nature of the United States, the diversity, which should be celebrated not delineated. The citizens of the United States are all from different countries and should be respectful for the freedom being sought for by all who come.

If advocators for the English Only movement are concerned with immigrants adopting English and assimilating then they should advocate further support for government interpreters and foreign language programs because being in the dark helps no one.  If being able to communicate is the issue then the communication must come from both sides.  One can’t be expected to understand if no one, especially the government, doesn’t lend a helping hand.  Immigrants know more than enough about the saying “When in Rome do as Romans do”. We all know that English is the assumed “official” language of the United States. But this doesn’t need to be enforced and shoved in people’s faces, if it’s going to be English Anything than how about English First.

Immigrants always make the present progressive. They are learning English from the past to the future constantly with willingness and desire to settle down in this country and being hopeful for a better life.  Assimilation is a process. As each generation makes the progress, it will be naturally resolved into a new society. No law can speed it up. Lawful enforcement is merely imposing an artificial language barrier. It rather causes helpless immigrants and incurs marginalized immigrants coming from non-English speaking countries. Speaking English shouldn’t be a privilege or a struggle or a prerequisite or a burden.  It shouldn’t be a statement like “Learn or Leave.”  It’s a process of patience.  Children of immigrants clearly pick up English perfectly without their parent’s language being beaten out of them.  To many of us, ABC is not as easy as one, two, three.  Those of use who have the privilege of speaking English shouldn’t expect it to come so quickly to others, and we most definitely shouldn’t expect others to just drop their first-language just because “In America we speak American.”  Language is a huge part of our identities, and foreign languages should be shared as gifts, like wise, English should be shared not enforced.

Jae Lee, MICA BFA ’09

The current ASA exhibition in Brown’s Rosenberg gallery not only discusses the literal and psychological hunger artists have towards their art, it displays a varied spectrum of mediums and subject matter while at the same time correlating to the subject of Asia.  There are examples of work made in fiber, garment design, illustration, painting, paper-cut, drawing, and silkscreen, of which I will only describe a few.

Son Young Kwon’s large silkscreen stretched on panels entitled Americanize, speaks of the spread of American consumer culture onto Eastern culture through mass media, fast food, and electronics with logos of Disney, McDonald’s and Apple.  The construction of the prints stretched on screens that are hinged together are reminiscent the display used with Asian brush painting.  Thus in a sense the American images are replacing the traditional images and practices of the past.

On the flip side, aspects of Asian consumer products are also shown in Jennifer Tam’s felted sculptures of two white dogs barking at one another, entitled Mitsy and Tina Have a Discussion.  The piece is facetious in the manner that the two small, white dogs appear to be fiercely barking at one another with angrily contorted expressions. Yet they both appear to be very pristine well kept dogs in the softness of the white fur that is rendered and the pink ribbons on their ears.  It appears to have an aspect of the cutesy quality of Asian consumer products, which transform functional utilitarian objects such as pencils and rulers into cartoonish and frilly objects with tassels.

Further into dark humor, Max Lewis displays a series ten illustrative ink and gold leaf drawings in a narrative of the gradual fall of a golden-hearted young boy.  The series is entitled The Dark Forest.  The boy has his heart ripped out, and his tempted by a devil, which consumes his soul.  This series displays a stylistic look perhaps reminiscent of Japanese manga comics.

Another piece discusses the blending of two cultures, specifically Korea and Japan through the ethnicity in the garment piece by Yeji Byun entitled When Shibori meets Hanbok.  The garment displays a layered floor length skirt and jacket with long sleeves that is cut short at the torso and tied in the front, the style of the Korean traditional hanbok.  However, the fabric is dyed in the Japanese practice of Shibori.  The piece may represent a biracial lineage, the cultural influence of Japan when during their occupation in Korea, or simply a blending of the two cultures.

Overall the current ASA exhibition was successful in the sense that it displayed a variety of mediums and aspects of Asian culture.   It is highly recommended that one should visit the show before it is taken down on February 8th.

Jenny Robinson 2010

Mission Statement

We’re Artists meeting and talking with other Artists. Our interest is the Asian diaspora, and its farflung influences–and on the other hand, how Asian Culture and Arts have been influenced by the inter-culturalistic points its met in its travels. Tune in on Sundays for Microcosm’s regular goodness, and throughout the week for special surprises.
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