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Exhibition Explores Experience of Korean Immigrants

'Away From Home' a patchwork of emotions of immigrants and adoptees

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September 24, 2013 | by Judy Moore
"R(H)yeon’s Journey (2013)" Silk organza, cotton thread, wood, velcro, brackets (individually-mounted long red silk organza panels).

EVANSTON, Ill. --- A solo exhibition by Korean-born artist Eun-Kyung Suh, whose sculptural vessels are a metaphor for memory and the immigrant experience, will run through Oct. 20 at Northwestern University’s Dittmar Memorial Gallery.

The exhibition --  “Away from Home” -- and a 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27 opening reception, will take place at the Dittmar Gallery, first floor, Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive, on the Evanston campus. Both are free and open to the public. The reception includes a brief talk by Suh about the works in the show. Refreshments will be served and the Treblemakers, Northwestern’s only co-ed East Asian-interest a cappella group, will perform.

Suh’s airy panels and boxes -- which appear to float in space -- were inspired by a traditional Korean textile art form called “bojagi.” Bojagi was made and developed by anonymous Korean women who led isolated lives in Confucian society during the Choson Dynasty (1392-1910).

“Bojagi is the cloth used to wrap, store, carry or protect everything from precious ritual objects to everyday clothes and common household belongings in Korea,” says Suh. “It is usually a square cloth of various sizes made out of silk, cotton or ramie.”

Suh’s works reconceptualize this traditional form, reconfiguring scraps of silk organza from Korea and imprinting the textiles with photographic images and written texts.

Her “Blue” (2010) and  “Red” (2010) wrapped boxes include printed images of photos from a Finnish-American friend’s family album as well as those of her own family. For “Sympathies-Anchae” (2011), Suh researched the ways Korean immigrants in Minnesota and Hawaii maintain their traditions. She transferred their vintage wedding and family photographs from Korea to hundreds of yards of silk organza that then became four large domestic interior partitions.

“R(H)yeon’s Journey” (2013) follows a trip Suh made to Korea last year with adult adoptees in search of Korean culture and tradition. One 26-year-old adoptee, Ryeon Corsi, whose birth name was Hyeon, collaborated with Suh by providing the artist with her journals. The result is a series of silk organza multi-sectioned screen-like panels representing the American cities the adoptee has lived in and cities she visited in Korea as an exchange student.

Born in Seoul, Suh now is a permanent U.S. resident living in Duluth. She is an associate professor in the art and design department at the University of Minnesota and has exhibited in the U.S., Canada, Russia and Switzerland. For information on the artist, visit her website.

Topics: Campus Life