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Keith Photography

When it comes to anything glamour related, it’s hard to see humility in the persons who live it, whether it be through lifestyle, profession, constructed media identity, or something else. But talking with Bay Area’s makeup artist Van Pham, founder of Vanity Pham, cosmetics become more than the surface, by making up and thereby creating an aesthetically inclined membrane. She specializes in pageantry and wedding makeup for her work, but her talents and training bring her to areas of work that don’t necessarily make the general civilian think of “makeup artist needed”, i.e. to create gorey looks. Makeup art is one of those places where the line of selling out to working purely for money and client satisfaction runs parallel with the line of being completely independent and free as an artist; this is where Van sets herself apart as one who manages to converge and balance the two by owning both. Perhaps that is because the conversation is shared with Van, or perhaps the conversation serves to represent for the microcosm of makeup art.
Van Pham has always loved makeup. She experimented with makeup on her own face, dashing dark hues, bright colors, and contouring her face into all sorts of shapes through the stroke of a shade. She found that most others didn’t really want to get experimented on, but rather desire to be “beautified”. The various ways of “beautifying” to clients’ satisfaction range as long as their individual interpretations of how to appear beautiful, usually based on media’s wide propagation. They typically come to Van with a desire to look like Celebrity x-y-z. With every face Van makes, she is sensitive to the client’s desire, whether it be a gorey look for Halloween, or a China-doll face for a pageant. Due to her experimental and professional experiences, she can often tell what will compliment clients’ facial anatomy from first glance. Sometimes, clients are very set on a particular shade of red for lipstick, or simply cannot handle “looking so gorgeous”. They tell her just that, saying they don’t feel it’s quite their own face. In those cases, Van will wipe off all the makeup and begin again. As a commercial makeup artist, the client’s wishes are completely privileged. Van just brings her palette of expertise and carefully sensitive consideration. The humility she practices in serving others’ beauty, costume, and or confidence needs is the primer to her professional practice. But when she’s in her own private space, she spirals out with her artistic creativity, having been inspired by the nature around her every day.
Though she loves color, the gentleness and harmony of flowers are also reflected in her professional development and practice. She’s been assistants to master makeup artists, where she learned how to read a face for all its texture variations (i.e. wrinkles, i.e. acne, i.e. scars), moisture and oil production, as well as bone structure. From there, she considers her Asian background as a blessing when she caters to both Asian and non-Asian clientel. Her sensitivity to Asian clients a la being equipped with eyelid tape and fake eyelashes are another aspect of her uniqueness, when others may only be able to make a face appear symmetrical through contouring. But make no mistake, doing makeup is not in Van’s genes, or done out of monetary need.
Van did makeup secretly until she couldn’t keep it in any longer. Her clientel grew, as did pageants to work at, and weddings booked, to stay quiet. Her parents wanted her to “get a good job like being a doctor” because they themselves immigrated to the U.S. and resorted to the beauty industry out of monetary need. But after seeing Van love her work and being loved by her work, they too are proud of her being a makeup conoisseur and experimental artist.
The genuine truthfulness Van brings to her practice is one of the elements for what sets her apart as an artist. She is fully aware of the fact that cosmetics can only cover blemishes i.e. acne and wrinkles, and that they cannot provide a permanent alteration. She lets her clients know that though the makeup will make their face look a certain way for the camera, the fact that they need to drink more water to make their skin brilliant all the time, is something her brushes, creams and powders cannot provide. While cameras have come a long way in technology, the human eye can still spot more than just the aesthetic superficial.
Van’s role as an artist, while quieter than her commercial ego, is still a recognizable one. She’s constantly doing work with other artists, particularly models and photographers. She’s done makeup for photography exhibitions at the Academy of Art in San Francisco and University of California – Davis. And for those who can call a pageant a beauty spectacle or performance involving multi-media, Van’s always sought for those events as well. Maybe you can be the next one to be a time-based art piece of Van Pham.

To see more of her work, here is her website:

She’s currently involved with Miss San Francisco, Miss Asia Sacramento, and Miss Asia America, just to name a few.
Ellice Park

Justin Hoch,

Meet Jen Kwok. A slim, cute Asian American working in New York City as a musician, comedian, and writer all rolled into one. Wait, what? Yeah, she’s Asian American… But instead of the usual stereotypical job that Asian American’s have: nail manicurists, restaurant owners, cleaners, taxi drivers, etc, or being a housewife to another stereotyped Asian man with a small penis, this gal is actually trying to fight the stereotype. But wait, she hasn’t joined a human rights’ campaign? How can she possibly be an active advocate? Here’s the catch: comedy through music. Take a look:

Credits: Jen Kwok & her band.


Jen has received a lot of great feedback from her audiences– from inspiring some to become writers, to having Asian drag troupes perform “Date an Asian” onstage, to people covering some of her other songs, Jen has received positive response from excited audiences online and off– not only for her comedic performances but also for the messages that she conveys through her songs. She wants them to just have a good time with it and take it lightheartedly.

In getting to know her a bit, we see that we really get a better climpse at the pan-Asian-American landscape of immigration stories. Jen grew up in Palmdale, California, where she and her family were the only Asian Americans around. The only Asian Americans she ever knew were blood related until the beginning of high school. We see the states as a cultural melting pot, but when Jen was growing up, her teachers wouldn’t even believe that she ate jellyfish. Instead, they told her not to lie. Such a statement is met with either mild surprise or disgust, if not a mixture of both. Another instance of cultural misconception she encountered at a young age was when she was told she couldn’t marry celebrity Jonathan Taylor Thomas because she isn’t white. It was understood as a general assumption that races don’t mix except for polite conversation and in the necessary workforce. At home she’d semiotically translate jokes, and outside the home she’d translate her skin color.

She found that expressing herself through comedy as a language combined with song were two things that could hold people’s attention positively. She spins tunes out of her negative experiences and realities to empower the pan-Asian American voice and shed light on stereotypical injustices. Though she did pursue the job of an accountant after majoring in business, she quickly quit the job to pursue a career in comedy. Good thing she did, otherwise where would we get these great videos that make us laugh and a little more culturally aware? With her ukelele in one hand and microphone in the other, Kwok uses her humour to encourage other young Asian Americans, East and Middle Eastern, especially those interested in the arts–to constantly look within and have integrity with everything they do in life, honestly questioning everything. Then do what they feel is right. She encourages us all to do things for ourselves and not others’ expectations, even if it is incredibly difficult.

Stay tuned to see more of her! She’s coming up with a new music video in April featuring some of the performers in her “Date an Asian” video. And for more Jen Kwok while awaiting the release of her music videos (her youtube site), keep up with her blog!

By Ellice Park and Mon-Mon Wu

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

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

self and other,
a normality identified up
so high and lofty

self and other,
start in a stomach,
end on dirt

every day, lay
horizontal to
then perpendicular

like a phallus
powerful but goes weak
in the sight of another too bold

love so strong,
tolerance so weak,
oh, celebrated tolerance

where’s the love?
at least respect-
can we have both — chacha?

by Ellice Park


Danny Knox’s Creation Myth of Peni, in Progress:

“The Peni were once omnipotent beings with the power to create and destroy. Of all their creations they loved Poof most. They created Poof from 3 simple components; they were glitter, love, and the pieces of the earth. Poof was frozen much like a sculpture and unable to move or communicate. It was most important that Poof had emotions and he could feel. The Peni in order to be able to coexist with Poof, gave their powers of creation to the earth of which Poof was created. As a show of gratitude Poof cares for the Peni, who created him and sacrificed themselves for his life….”

I am taking Toys class in this semester, and I learn about the background and issues of toys in America. I questioned how people who have Asian background thinks about toys. So, I interview two friends who are 5 years older than me. Seok Han grew up most of his life in Korea and came to MICA as a graduate student last year. Andrew Kim immigrated to US when he was young. Even though they are in same age and generation, they had different interest on toy.

by David Woo

Andrew Kim
Born in 1981


What was your favorite toy when you grow up?
Well I think that my favorite toy is different when I was in Korea and in US. in my generation, gundam plastic model was a trend; assembling, painting, and playing. Actually gundam was very popular in the generation of my older brother, and he influenced me when I grew up. Another trend was making a small racing car. Assembled with a motor, batteries, and wings and painted custom. I remember that I bought some parts like bearings and wings, which were price range of $1 to $10. There was a racing track in front of a toy store, so I used to race with my friend there.

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Julie Cheng, an undergraduate senior at MICA, is a Fibers major and Experimental Fashion concentrator who creates collections of fashionable female garments. A reoccurring theme throughout her work is the idea of sustainability – that is, reusing materials and never letting anything go to waste. Her trove of materials includes pages from fashion magazines, paper, plastic bags, aluminum cans, and basically anything that is typically wasted in great quantities.

Currently, Cheng is working on her senior thesis. “It’s going to be about accumulation and being green. The garment industry creates so much fabric and fashion, and then when styles go out, it all ends up in the trash. It’s the most wasteful industry and I want to do something about that.”

For Cheng, the relevance of sustainability comes not only from modern American culture, but also from the traditions of her family. She was born in New York, “Flushing, Queens, to be exact,” she says, to parents who immigrated from Taiwan. “My mom is a native Taiwanese, and she grew up on a farm as a very poor countryside girl.” Says Cheng, “When I was growing up, my mom always saved things, especially clothing. She has about five closets of clothes now.”

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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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