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189 posts categorized "Thinking Out Loud"

August 10, 2017


Fork, Frida, and Freedom


FridaValuing the element of Chance as championed by Dadaism became adopted by Surrealism ... where artists like Max Ernst, Salvador Dali and Andre Breton were pursuing art that emerged from the unconscious dream-state rather than the conscious state. Dali went as far as wearing a folded fork as a necklace so that when he nodded off to sleep while seated, the fork would poke him awake at the chin, allowing him to quickly capture images from his dream.

One such Dali painting ... of a landscape with melting clocks sure does seem like a dream. Nevertheless, it is a painting that works because he had the technical skills to paint that landscape and melting clocks. Skills that were acquired in a conscious reality.

Though surrealists wanted to induct Frida Kahlo into the fold as they saw her dreamy paintings as surrealist in nature, Kahlo is famous for saying to surrealist leaders that she never painted dreams but that she painted her reality ... of bottomless pain, heartache and agony.

Surrealism was in tandem to Abstract Expressionism which caught fire in the US after WWII when experimental artists from the world moved to the US to pursue freedom of expression, and rebel against the stranglehold that reverence for realism (and end product) had on the art world.

Whereas painters of realism were more about methods that would let the work speak and the artist be silent, abstract expressionists like Jackson Pollock wanted to be heard, his process to be heard, and for the process to gain equal or even more important footing than the end result. 

There is this balance in my art practice that makes me relate to the idea of rebelling against strict rules and methods like surrealists and abstract expressionists. Like leave me alone already ... and don't tell me what do do or how to do it. But the other side of that for me is that if in fact in my dream state or my imagination I see melting clocks ... or a boat with a ladder to the moon or something even more unconventional, I need to have the skills to do so ... if I want others see what I see. 

So what is freedom? My ability to do what I want? My ability to learn and practice new skills? I think both are elements of it. Freedom, that is.

#artandactivismlog

 

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


Assertive

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.

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