157 posts categorized "Thinking Out Loud"

October 15, 2015

Getty Inspired

JennyDohInspiredI am happy and honored to have my painting and my thoughts about inspiration included in a new project launched today by The Getty museum called #GETTYinspired where you can view wonderful artwork that has been inspired by The Getty museum.

Here's the link. Super cool.

The Getty is one of my favorite places to visit. Here's the general link to the museum's site so you can check out the details for your next visit.


August 20, 2015

The Documented Life Project :: Visible Peculiarities

 I am honored to write this blog post as a Featured Artist,
for the good people at the DOCUMENTED LIFE PROJECT 2015: THE JOURNAL.

The challenge given to me is to use multiple mediums to create an art piece that includes faces or the human form and to allow the piece to speak to my younger self ... and to provide advice to that younger self.

First off, I would NEVER give advice to anyone, including my younger self, unless I was explicitly asked or hired to give advice. There's a lot of judging, preaching, and unsolicited advising going on where people are meddling in the business of others ... frequently disguised as well-intended advice ... like "choose happy" or "be brave" or "be free" or "dream big."

So much so that a person who might not be feeling happy or brave or free or dreaming big might believe that there is something wrong with her ... different and peculiar from the rest of the world. What I've learned in my life through advice and counsel I have explicitly sought and sometimes paid for (and also through biographical stories I've heard or read about), is that I am who I am, and the more I can embrace all of the emotions I go through, the more fulfilling and meaningful my life becomes. It is a full time job to mind my own business.

When I was 7 years old, I left my home in South Korea and moved to California. This photo below is of a spread in my passport back then, with a photo of my younger self. One section of the passport that I've always thought interesting is a category titled VISIBLE PECULIARITIES. I don't think they have that category on their passports anymore but nevertheless, it has always gotten my mind stirring about human peculiarities, both visible and invisible.

Peculiarities ...
Visible ...
Invisible ...
Hmmm ... these words float in my head as I start to create this piece and I grab a piece of cardboard, some acrylic paints, palette knife, and black pencils.

IMG_0725I use a palette knife to first smudge on some pink paint. And while it's still a little bit wet, I smudge a bit of white paint right on top of the pink paint. I don't worry about perfection, but rather allow the paint to be applied loosely and scumbly.

IMG_0728Next, I use my pencil to make a scribbley face on a piece of vintage ledger paper. I intentionally make the face look "peculiar" ... imperfect eyes and nose, and a mouth positioned to one side of the face. I use a paintbrush wet with dirty water (water that I have used to rinse out dirty paintbrushes so that it's nice and murky) to loosen up some of the pencil marks around the face so to create a drippy cloud of hair for the face.  IMG_0731
I tear the paper with the face into a smaller piece and then I start holding it up next to the smudgey cardboard to find the orientation that I like best.


And I decide on this one.


Before I adhere the paper to the cardboard, I use my pencil to sketch an outline that unifies the face with the smudgey paint ... to create sort of a mermaid-ish girl. Nothing definite. A bit "peculiar" and in a state of evolution. I like it.


With my pencil, I extend the silhouette of the hair beyond the paper and onto the cardboard and then I take my paintbrush loaded with some dirty water to paint the extending hair onto the cardboard.


I glue the paper onto the cardboard and then add additional loose and scribbley pencil marks including rain drops, illegible writing, anchor, and a word that is:

1) not a cliche
2) not judgemental or preachy
3) unexpectedly split in the middle and stacked
2) loose and scribbley


I wonder if my younger self were to see this piece whether she would realize that all humans have peculiarities, both visible and invisible. And that embracing them rather than pretending that they don't exist is what makes life interesting and weird and honest and tragic and joyful, and everything else. I hope so.

Thanks for tuning in,
Jenny :-)

PS: Some things you might want to check out if you want to:
My books
My art studio
My etsy shop
My instagram feed


February 13, 2015

Somewhere is nowhere I need to get to.

And it's when I hit the valleys, not the hills, and think I'm getting nowhere with my art that I am reminded by those most fluent with the hills and valleys of art that somewhere is nowhere I need to get to.

That that is the never-ending saga of art.

Photo-66(Excerpt from Widow from One Year by John Irving)

February 12, 2015

Vivaldi, Shazam, and Valentine's

Do you use the Shazam APP? I don't use it often. Only when I am so very moved by something I'm listening to and I know I have to stop everything so that I can know what it is so I can buy it.

It happened to me recently when I was listening to violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter's performance of a classical piece of music (the Zigeunerweisen, OP. 20 with the Wiener Philharmoniker) on the radio. It made me feel such intense emotions. Intensity. Nostalgia. Passion. Straight to my heart. What the composer's intent was and what I feel about it I am sure don't completely align. But that's ok. What I feel is almost a new birth that the music goes through. His intent. My unique receipt and experience of it.

It's incredible how music can do that. I also feel that way with most of Chopin, Debussy, and Fauré. And also Max Bruch's Kol Nidre for the cello. Actually, I can hardly listen to the entire Kol Nidre without getting choked up. It gets to me every time.

It's the same with visual art. There are pieces of art that connect with me so deeply that I have to stop everything and "shazam" it, if you will. To find out who made it, get closer to it, and if I'm lucky enough, to buy it.


Vivaldi's music doesn't do that for me. I like Vivaldi. But I don't think I've ever stopped everything I'm doing to Shazam a Vivaldi piece. It's pleasant and sometimes I frolic around in it with delight, as a respite of sorts, when I don't have the energy in me to fall to my knees with the kind of Kol Nidre music that gets me to the core.

So it came as no surprise to learn from the same radio station that many critics of Vivaldi used to categorize his music as "wallpaper music." Maybe unfair but I understand it.

I want to exist in a world where wallpaper art exists. But I don't want to make wallpaper art. I want to make Zigeunerweisen-Chopin-Debussy-Fauré art. Kol Nidre art. That's what I want to make, not in conflict with, but in concert with Vivaldi art.

Switching topics.

It's almost Valentine's Day. Another V-word. Every Valentine's, I remember the best card I ever got. It was from my dad when I was in college. He sent me a 2o dollar bill folded into a V and taped onto a blank card. Signed, "Love, Dad."

That V helped me frolic in the moment. Pizza and fro yo for me and a friend. A respite from Nietzsche, calculus, and other heavy things.

Sometimes, it's the simplest gifts and expressions that help us frolic, I think.

February 07, 2015

A lot of work being done

I am extremely tired.
And it's much later than my usual bed time. And I'm writing a blog post.

After Amy's wonderful day of workshop today, I segued into opening my studio for Santa Ana's monthly Art Walk. Two of the best things I overheard during the art walk were as follows:

1. Two young girls pointing to works they liked in the studio to their dad, with one saying "I'd like to have that one hang in my bedroom."

Art connects and works with someone or it doesn't. And when my art connects with a tender young person who vocalizes the connection to her father ... well ... it's very special.

2. A cohort of young men viewing and talking amongst themselves about the art with one of them saying to the group: "There's a lot of work being done in this studio."

Yes. There is a lot of work being done. It felt so good to overhear a complete stranger validate the fact that making art, and all the other activities related to making art is work, and that I have been doing a lot of it.

Off to bed I go.
For another full day tomorrow.
Because art ... making it, facilitating it, discussing it, teaching it ... it is my work.
And even in this state of being tired, I am grateful that there is a lot of it being done in my studio.

February 05, 2015

Chopin and Liszt: The whole endless shebang

Whenever I get to practice my cello, I like to look at small notations that are written in the margins of some of my sheets of music. Mostly the notations are by my former teachers reminding me to play the music a certain way ... "with attitude" ... "with melancholy" ... "with playfulness." One of my teachers also had a way of encouraging me to add slides and ornamental additions to infuse a unique attitude and interpretation with the music that was before me ... composed in black and white.


Recently, I listened to a program on the radio about a well-known argument that happened between composers Frederic Chopin and Franz Liszt back in the 19th century. After Liszt performed one of Chopin's pieces by adding embellishments that had not be part of the original composition, Chopin expressed annoyance and is said to have said something like "he should play the music as written or not play it at all."

I think Chopin had it wrong. I don't say that with glibness or disrespect because there are certain instances when a person's interpretation of a work might just feel ... I don't know ... not right. And I know that original art ... whether music or writing or sculpture reflects an important essence and intent of the creator. But at the heart of it, if a performer is given music and decides to add embellishments or play something in a mood that is completely opposite of the mood that it was intended, that is the performer's prerogative. And it is the audience's prerogative to embrace or reject the performance and/or composition.

The application of this thought to visual arts is more troubling, I suppose. Because if anyone came into my studio and up to an original painting and painted something over it, I would probably be highly annoyed. But if a person did that after having bought the painting from me, I'm not sure if I'd feel the right to express annoyance. Especially if the altered painting brought the owner great joy. Perhaps how a painting is framed ... in a distressed wooden frame or a leopard print plastic number could also be a point of contention between artist and consumer but ultimately how the art is framed is a choice that the consumer gets to make, to the pleasure or annoyance of the artist.

The application of the thought that I strenuously disagree with is when humans try to police the ways in which reproductions of originals are handled. Like art magazines. Like those who say magazines that contain photos of art ought not be altered because then we are defacing and disrespecting the artist.

Photos inspire paintings. Paintings inspire sculptures. Art magazines get cut up and painted and altered to become collages and other things. These collages and other things inspire photos. These photos inspire paintings. And these paintings inspire sculptures ... and music, and food, and dance, and poetry, and relationships. The whole endless shebang.

As far as I'm concerned, I can throw the magazines I buy (or original works of artists that I buy) in the mud and run them over with my car if I want to. (Haven't wanted to yet, btw.)

It's ultimately about letting it go. Deep down, I don't think Chopin or any composer would want the world to be policed in a way where performers are bullied into playing compositions only if they will do it the way it was written.

Because then there might be a chance that it is never played at all.



January 30, 2015

Bouts for the everyman

This is what my table looked like after my dinner party last night. One of the most enjoyable nights I've had in a long time. Good food that I had the pleasure of cooking and serving to my boxing friends (three years of boxing together and the bond is quite strong!), and such good conversation ... about books, politics, our past, our present, intriguing podcasts, and the thrill of boxing of course. It was extremely enjoyable. It was a dinner party that couldn't get here fast enough when we planned it a while back but during the day as I was preparing the food, I felt the hours were going too fast as I worked hard to get everything done.

Photo-60One of my boxing friends shared that he is going to get into an actual ring in March and fight an actual fight with a real life opponent. He's enrolled and scheduled and everything!

Oh my goodness!

He pointed out that it's just six minutes in the ring ... the way this particular fight format is organized ... which is three two-minute rounds amongst boxing enthusiasts who are not professionals at all ... bouts for the everyman. His point was that six minutes out of a person's life is a drop in the bucket, comparatively. Part of me wanted to talk him out of it but the part of me that realizes that people do what they decide to do decided to listen attentively ... and cleared plates to serve up the final paleo course of lemon curd cake and banana ice cream for everyone.

So I talked to Coach Tee about this today. He pointed out that yes, six minutes is a short period of time but when you're in the ring, six minutes can be a fucking eternity. But what of it? We do what we decide to do.

I decided that I'm gonna be in my friend's corner on the night of his fight. And if he'll let me, I'm gonna be part of his small entourage as he enters the ring. I figure if anything, I can give him my moral support. Maybe hand him a water bottle between rounds. Just be in his corner, you know?

The time thing made me think about how our emotions make it seem like it's going too slowly or too quickly.

Remember the Hermes that I told you I got on ebay? My daughter will attest to the fact that I lost out on several other Hermes on ebay because I just didn't hit it right in terms of bidding at the right moment. But when I saw this one that I ended up winning, I knew I had to pull myself together and get er done. When I first saw it, I had like 6 days before the auction would end. Six days! What an eternity to wait to finalize the bid, I thought. And then when it came down to the last one minute of the auction, and then 50 seconds and then 40 seconds when I decided to put my bid in, my heart was beating fast and I felt the seconds were going way too fast, as I almost fumbled the pressing of the BID NOW button ... kind of freaking out about the potential of losing the perfect Hermes to a less deserving bidder.

After I won it, time seemed to move at its normal pace again. And I could breathe again.

But of course time moves at its same pace whether we are in or out of the ring, bidding or not bidding in an auction. Relentlessly so.

So my friend will fight in March.

It seems simultaneously too close and too far from now.

You may not need eyes to see

My Hermes Baby Jubilee typewriter arrived today. I got it on ebay recently ... something I decided to do after reading The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint. The protagonist in that book writes his story on a Hermes. Every bit of his incredibly tragic and ultimately beautiful life. Edgar Mint isn't real, but I can imagine him. I can imagine his Hermes. I can imagine him sitting and typing on his Hermes.

The story caused me to imagine using an Hermes to type my own story. Maybe not my entire life story but parts of it on a good ol typewriter. The kind of manual machine that I actually learned to type on at Actis Junior High in Bakersfield. Boy, did I love typing class.


Much like the piano, when you are learning to type, you're not supposed to look at your fingers or the keys. You're supposed to feel them and and use the sense of touch and senses other than sight to strike them correctly.

Today, I listened to an episode of the Invisibilia podcast that had something quite extraordinary to say about what and how we see. Specifically, the episode talked about blind people. And how if a blind person is left to develop on his or her own accord, the person will intuitively do this thing called clicking, where with the mouth, clicking sounds are made to help measure the distance of things in life. Trees, tables, walls, people. And if the seeing population can withhold fears and low expectations of the blind, the blind are capable of developing into much higher functioning humans than the seeing population might think that they are capable of.

The podcast went on to present an extraordinary idea that the blind can, through intuition and clicking, not only cross busy streets and climb trees independently, but to also develop images in the brain that measure similarly to the images that register in the brains that sighted people have.


I wanted to join the hosts of the podcast when they literally went up onto a mountain top (or a tall building) to shout to the world that "You may not need eyes to see."

Ain't it the truth, though? Sometimes it's the visually impaired who see better than those with 20-20 vision. And it makes me wonder ...

What do I see?
How do I hinder or help others to see?
How do others hinder or help me to see?

January 28, 2015

More please

Today was a fantastic day. Some of my art friends made the time to come all the way to my gym to box with me and Coach Tee. Here's a shot that my friend Josie took during our time together. I love it.

Kick2The reason they all came to my gym is because they had asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday and ... though we had toyed with the idea of doing something grand like going to NYC, plans evolved into something much simpler and I said I really wanted all of us to go boxing together.

After boxing, we all met up for a lovely brunch where we ate yummy food and I was showered with presents ... mostly beautiful books, both new and old. My friend Jennifer asked me if there was anything in particular I wanted to have happen this coming year.

"More," I said.

More of what I have right now. Art. Boxing. Food. Family. Friends. Studio. Reading. I think more than ever before, I am able to be in the moment and appreciate the brush strokes when I'm painting. The punches when I'm boxing. The ingredients when I'm cooking. My voice  when I'm conversing with the people I love. The words when I'm reading.

To be in the moment not wanting the moment to be different, or worrying about a past or future moment. It's as good as it gets.

Last night a young gal I know messaged me asking for a book recommendation. She's been through a rough period in her life and is looking for a book that might help her move forward. I told her I'm not much into self-help books but that I could recommend some good fiction. She was open to it. I'm still thinking about what I'll recommend. To me, the subject of the fiction doesn't have to be uplifting per se, to help a person move forward. It simply has to be deeply engaging ... perhaps intoxicating ... so much so that we drink the book in wanting every drop of it to seep into who we are so that we can feel it and we can imagine it, we can get lost in it ... and when we are lost, a moment when perhaps we become separated from the troubles we may have ... to realize how deeply moving a piece of fiction is ... and how our problem about ... you know ... the problem ... now what was that about again? ... starts to fade to unimportance. After all, there are more beautiful books to read, more good food to eat, more boxing sessions to go to, and more deep, beautiful conversations to have with humans who are equally adept at having conversations ... perhaps about the same book that you have read, or a different one that you decide to pick up because their description and the epiphanies they had while reading it as shared over coffee is highly engaging. No, intoxicating.

January 11, 2015

Magical Realism Painting

The magic of reading the written works by author Haruki Murakami is that even though I know that I can't really walk through a wall to get to the other side, the writing sort of makes me believe that I could. If the circumstances were just right.

The writing even sometimes gets me to actually go touch a brick wall to see if I can conjure the energy of the other side ... to potentially enter it.

Recently when I was teaching my Painting by Heart workshop, I had an epiphany.

IMG_1477Painters are frequently asked what type of painting they do. I've usually answered that question by saying that I paint abstractly, or intuitively ... two categories that are fairly well established within the current language that people use to classify painting styles.

Though I don't reject those categories, I think the category of my paintings is more accurately described as MAGICAL REALISM. I'm not sure if that is a category that anyone recognizes within the world of painting but I embrace it and will start using those words to describe my paintings, even if it's not considered official. It's a style where an eye of a girl is also the eye of a blue dog. Where there is more than one moon in the sky. Where uninhibited folded boats with vaginas grow striped legs and walk away. Where a realistic shadow for one object can exist but not for another. Where a mouth is positioned not where it should be but somewhere else entirely.

Where "visible peculiarities" aren't embarrassing but rather intriguing ... as we wonder what is on the other side ... and imagine the circumstances that might take us there.

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