188 posts categorized "Thinking Out Loud"

August 05, 2017

Captures in the Wild

BlacklivesmatterI've been reading about the history of photography. Did you know that in its infancy (the early 1800s), photography sought to mimic paintings which is why early photos show models posed the way painters would have posed them? It isn't until the late 1800s that the photograph development process evolved from a wet to dry process, allowing photographers to leave the studio and shoot images in the wild ... less like traditional paintings. Such advances allowed photographers to become artists/activists and present startling images ... scenes from wars, The Great Depression, crimes, riots, etc. These images that I think are simultaneously science and art, beautiful and ugly, real and (as Susan Sontag would argue) edited and framed (like everything in the world). 

Fast forward to now ... where practically everybody has the ability to capture and share images.

As a painter, I find it fascinating ... the circling back ... where my practice utilizes photos that I reference to make paintings. Of course there is also an artistic license that a painter holds ... to exaggerate or abstract the reference, and perhaps invoke magical realism to then cause the photo reference to be one of the many ingredients to create a new work of art altogether.

Last night I saw a one-woman art performance by Vivian Bang, where she revisits the complex facets of the 1992 LA Riots, where the world was inundated with photos and videos from the wild ... of police brutality suffered by Rodney King ... of that brutality shockingly exonerated by a jury ... of the violence that erupted after the exoneration ... of that violence being ironically and tragically targeted toward Korean Americans and their businesses ... and all that. 

This year, there was the Women's March that I proudly participated in. Of the many photos from the march that I saw, this one made me weep. This one of young Asian Americans holding a Love = #blacklivesmatter poster. It made me weep because I wanted to hug the parents of these youth who have raised them right. That in spite of ironic conflicts among minority communities in the past (fueled by irrational skapegoating), it is still the right thing to do to teach our youth what is right and what is wrong. It makes me wonder ... what will these youth be doing 10 0r 20 years from now when a photographer captures them in a new frame? Standing up for right, is my guess. My hope. 

(PC: Nick Holmes, Women's March Los Angeles 2017 book)



July 06, 2017

All I need is: more than love.

LoveIt's gotten a lot easier over the last couple of decades but honestly, I feel awkward when someone says "I love you" to me and even more awkward when I say "I love you" back to someone. Which is why I rarely say it.  I'm pretty sure it's a cultural thing.

Most people who are culturally Korean don't really say "I love you." We experience this other thing called jeong that we sometimes admit is happening to us ... but not very loudly nor publicly (unlike the Pharisees), and never in ALL CAPS. The definition of jeong is multifaceted and can include esteem, regard, affection, respect, attachment, and more ... including strands of love.

The reason I bring this up is because when our society is debating a delicate and complex matter I notice there's frequently someone who says "all we need is love." And though I respect the intent, I find that after that sentiment is spoken, the critical  thinking, contemplation, analysis, and debate slow down ... not in a good way.

It reminds me of when I was at this event and engaged in an important discussion with a person. We were interrupted by a third person who came up and put a piece of paper into my hand and then left. The paper said "dream big." It could have just as well said "all you need is love" or "be brave" or "shine bright" or "live love laugh." Lordy.

I do love love. Especially the compassionate-for-the-disenfranchized-and-poor-strand. But I need more than love on a strip of paper. I need tenacious audacity of those willing to speak truth to power, I need scientists and academics who research and study things for years and then share their findings, I need analysis, I need discipline, I need practice, I need competence, I need expertise, I need room for doubt, I need freedom to dissent ... I need a culture sensitive enough to realize that "I love you" doesn't make everyone feel exactly the same.

June 02, 2017

#resistancelog (contemplation issue)

ContemplateSometimes, in response to what I see happen in the world, I find my art responding. The response could be:

  • an illustration of 22 pink balloons floating into the sky as I contemplate the lives that were lost by a radicalized suicide bomber in #Manchester, England.
  • an oil portrait of a 15-year-old #JordanEdwards as I contemplate how another unarmed Black male was shot to death by a cop in Dallas, Texas.
  • an illustration made with crumpled receipts to point out the ironies of my ecologically-aware yet consumption-driven lifestyle.

Sometimes I hear people ask "What's the solution?"

And I guess what I want to say in response to that is that I don't know, AND
I don't think solutions are linear or simple. X + Y doesn't necessarily = Z.

With social problems so deep-rooted, I wonder if an artist's ability to feel and express and contemplate increases our ability to empathize and better understand matters. And perhaps this is a mightily high service that art delivers to the world ... a service that inspires critical thinking and deep-end feeling ... and moments of honest contemplation ... about society and about self. 

#manchesterunited #blacklivesmatter #contemplation #artandactivism #resistancelog

May 13, 2017

Art Actually

Art actuallyWhen I am in a studio space with artists ... either as teacher or learner ... there's this thing that happens. Where we relate ... we struggle ... we share ... we experience ... and this thing is an experiential relationship that feels intense for a period of time ... either confined to the studio space or it continues into the wild as other collaborative things flower from it. And maybe paintings get produced in the process ... and I've been wondering ... couldn't the relationship that happens the ACTUAL art and the thing that gets produced (e.g., paintings, sketches, etc.) actually a byproduct of art? #bathroomstallmeditation #artactually

April 19, 2017

Free, not brave.

Thank you to everyone at Redline Design Studio for producing this interview of me. I'm honored.

A Conversation with...Jenny Doh from Sarah G. Stevenson on Vimeo.

March 07, 2017

#resistancelog (Word Choice Edition)

Word choice

As I continue to embrace my outrage against the misogyny of this administration and the world, I am reminded of the importance of being mindful with words. My word choices. My desire to avoid using words that create hierarchy among women.

Case in point. Recently, there was a photo of Kellyanne Conway kneeling on the couch in the oval office while looking at her phone that went viral. Congressman Cedric Richmond joked about the photo saying that she "really looked familiar in that position." In response to the misogyny reflected in Richmond's comment, Chelsea Clinton called him out on it and defended Conway by saying: "Despicable. I hope @kellyannepolls receives the apology she deserves ..." To which Conway responded to Clinton by saying: "Thank you @chelseaclinton. As strong women ... appreciate you speaking out on this ..."

And it's the word choice of "As strong women" that left me feeling unsettled.

"As strong women" are three words that appear innocuous at the outset but in my opinion, elevate women of privilege and denigrates women with less privilege. When the words "as strong women" are spoken, the unspoken words sound something like: "as better women ... than those weak ones, those poor ones, those slutty ones, those pitiful ones ..."

I feel that if I as a woman am going to fight misogyny, I need to be aware that perceived strength in a woman isn't because that woman is inherently superior, or that perceived weakness in a woman isn't because that woman is inherently inferior.

Sometimes, when a woman exists within an environment of abuse, poverty, sexual oppression, the means for survival includes meekness and other strategies of finding ways to survive ... quietly sometimes ... outlandishly sometimes ... provocatively sometimes ... to finish the day with the currency she needs for her work so she can live another day.

I'm not saying that I don't want to be strong. I just want to talk about strength in ways that don't unknowingly ignore the dynamics of privilege among women and buy into the faulty notion that individual hard work is all I need to overcome structural oppression. As Catharine MacKinnon points out in Feminism Unmodified: "When a few of us overcome all this, we are told we show there are no barriers there and are used as examples to put other women down. She made it—why can't you? We are used as tokens while every problem we share is treated as a special case."

I want to be strong ... and I don't want to huddle with the privileged "as strong women" to inadvertently shame other women. And I don't want any perceived strength on my part to be used to prove that there are no barriers ... but because there are.

March 05, 2017

The Outrage

ArtwalkThe best thing a person said to me at last night's art walk is "I feel your emotions ... including the angst, the outrage ... in your work."

It was the best thing because I know that such emotions are frequently with me ... which I intentionally don't chase away ... as they testify to my observations of the world. I'm not afraid of them. And when another human can experience my art and connect emotionally ... well ... that's as good as it gets for me. And as much as I enjoy Happy, I seek not to order my emotions into a hierarchy because Angst and Outrage aren't less important. Even with a still life of apples or flowers from a garden or portraits of faces, I am interested in honestly expressing with urgency, emotions I have in response to what I see, what I feel. I don't want to stay in the shallow end of life pretending that I'm in the deep end.

Speaking of which ... I'd like to say again ... ENOUGH.

Enough from self-annointed authorities on "how to live life" who preach endlessly about what humans should feel, via the "choose happy/I'll pray for you" movement. I don't choose my emotions. I experience life and emotions happen. Art happens. Expressions happen. Connections happen. You want me to choose happy? You want to pray for my outrage to go away? I say to that: Mind your own feelings. Pray (if you want to) for your own self. Because your finger pointing to the moon is not the moon.

March 02, 2017

Reno Tahoe Tonight Magazine Interview

RenomagI was recently interviewed for Reno Tahoe Tonight magazine and I'm so honored to be the cover story for the March issue. I'm so very happy with how it turned out. Among other things, we discuss art, music, my exhibitionist tendencies, discipline, freedom, and why in many ways, painting helps me live another day. Here's the link. Starts on page 16. Thanks for reading it. 



January 20, 2017

assertive & non-violent resistance


I was texting with my girlfriend tonight, who in college experienced sexual assault. I told her that one of the signs I made tonight: "No consent? No pussy." will be carried tomorrow in her honor, to send a message to pussy-grabber-in-chief that I resist his misogyny. Assertively and non-violently.

I agree with Anne Lamott, who says in her book, Bird by Bird, that truth is always subversive. Truth disrupts, it interrupts, it resists. I also believe that the most effective type of subversion is non-violent. 

As I march tomorrow, no matter the provocation, I will simultaneously practice assertiveness and non-violence. Just the way our historical leaders have taught us:

"At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love." (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

"Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man." (Mahatma Gandhi)

"Men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less." (Susan B. Anthony)

Fired up?
Yes, we're fired up.
Ready to go?
Yep, we're ready to go. Assertively and non-violently.

Let's stay safe and be heard.

January 18, 2017

to understand. to apologize. to organize.

To organizeDuring high school, I got involved with a church where the teachings inspired me to believe that among other things, gay people would go to hell. Some of the sentences I uttered back then to champion that perspective are ... in hindsight ... shameful and embarrassing.

In college, I got involved with classes and readings that inspired me to understand that throughout history, a person's sexual orientation is extremely fluid. I got involved in conversations with humans within this fluid spectrum and realized that love isn't about commanding anyone to love a certain way. Love is about knowing that each person loves in his/her unique way.

After college, during my career, I became inspired to believe and utter other things that now, in hindsight, I am ashamed of. It relates to the story I shared yesterday related to my late brother. Prior to his passing, I remember uttering things like "Choose happy" and "Get over it" to various people. I've learned since then that for people suffering from chronic depression, they are not choosing to be sad and it is not a character deficit that keeps them battling the grips of depression. 

What brings a depressed person out of darkness is not just one thing. It could be talking with a good therapist or friend. It could be medication. It could be meditation. It could be prayer. It could be, as Allie Brosh (author of Hyperbole and a Half) describes so brilliantly, seeing a funny-looking pea under a refrigerator.

I think there's a huge difference between "Choose happy" which is a command statement and "I choose happy," which is a statement of personal truth. A statement of personal truth declares what I believe and feel without judging or shaming or commanding another human to believe and feel.

"I choose happy" vs. "Be happy" and "I love men" vs. "All women should love men" and "Buddha is my way" vs. "Buddha is the only way" and "I am atheist" vs. "You should be an atheist."

To those who are in the grips of depression who may have ever heard me utter command statements of how to feel and to anyone to whom I may have ever said how to love, I want to officially say that I now better understand. And I apologize.

This Saturday, women are marching worldwide to speak up among other things, for women's rights which are human rights. The main march in Washington is estimated to have the largest turnout for an inauguration-related protest in US history. Where things go after the march as women seek to organize, I don't know but I'm ready to go through it. As a marcher in the Santa Ana sister march, I have received lots of supportive remarks. I've also received some not-so-supportive remarks with the most popular being: "Get over it," a command statement. To which I say: "I'm not over it," my personal truth.



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