If I could summarize the experience of an immigrant into one image, it would be that of teetering on a see-saw. On one end, the choice of rejection and othering and on another, the choice of acceptance and assimilation. A perpetual balancing act. As an immigrant, I find the predisposition to find the familiar when navigating the strange and foreign as a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it speaks to our incredible capability to find comfort as means of survival, while on the other it can hinder our ability to integrate and contribute to the local community.
This is a tension that I am constantly exploring within myself and in engaging with the world around me. As an artist, I am curious about further exploring the constructs that create these conditions for the immigrant and the consequential effects of these choices.
My works portray these questions, visualizing them by collaging moments and bringing them into close conversations with another. Confrontations are an effective way to dissect some of the more politicized and personal parts of the content. At the core, my works function as fuel for extended research into the history of immigration, as well as act as points of meditation for larger concepts like religion and family history.
My process begins with recollecting memories of my childhood as a 9 year old Korean boy immigrating to Santiago, Chile. One formative memory of my childhood was noticing the barbed wire fences that encircled our church premises, which were run entirely by Koreans. The purpose of the barbed wire was to keep the Chileans out, and to cultivate a sense of safety in this particular community. Not only was this a frightening image for me as a child, the barbed wire signifying hostility and separation in contrast to the sacredness of church and religion, but it always struck me as strange. It’s fragmented moments of my upbringing, these deeply contrasting and extremely loaded images, that are at the core of my work. I take these recollections and feelings, and then translate them into visual forms, captured forever on two dimensional surfaces.
Currently, I am working on a series called “Bautismo” - a series that depicts various moments from baptisms that I witnessed, which always occurred inside a swimming pool at our pastor’s tropical backyard during summer. I use this spectacle as a space to research deeper into how religion is reconstructed as it adapts to its local culture. Rather than focusing on the spirituality of this religion, I am interested in how this spirituality is expressed in the form of the physical and the ritualistic, and the way it informs the social and the interpersonal.
Ultimately, all my paintings act as anchors to explore and understand a particular experience defined by the inevitable dichotomy that exists as a result of the complicated relationship between two different cultures and languages so that I may better navigate the world that increasingly asks me to redefine my identity as an East Asian immigrant.