JuYeon Kim Discusses The In-Between

JuYeon Kim and Ginny DeLacey chat about Kim's art in NMWA's library.Artist JuYeon Kim sat down with NMWA Intern Ginny DeLacey to talk about the work she is currently building on the 2nd floor galleries–2 major sculptural installations that visitors can experience starting this Friday, June 25. Kim began working on the pieces last year with the help of students from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Her dreamlike images reference the bardo–the “in-between” space through which a person’s spirit travels after physical death.

Ginny DeLacey: Have you ever worked on a collaborative project like this before? How long have you been working on these installations? How did the students at SCAD contribute in the pieces?

JuYeon Kim: I have worked on a collaborative project before, one with engineers, but not in such a large scale, nothing like this. I got a call from the SCAD director last spring. Then I started working on the concepts and drawings last summer. The students were chosen for me by a professor at SCAD. The school read my proposal which specified the skills the students needed to have to work on the installation. I had group meetings with the students every class during the semester. The works are my concepts but the students contributed. I think the exhibition was challenging to students in some ways. The subject matter was unfamiliar, so we discussed it and went over my concepts.

GD: How did you choose the Tibetan Book of the Dead for inspiration?

JK: It is the main theme for the works, but the installations are not only about Buddhism. I tried to find universal themes. These works are also the second part of a series, the first part was completed in 2007. The first part was an installation that was also a collaborative project with SCAD in Lacoste, France. This town in the south of France has a few small exhibition spaces. I installed a piece in a cave that was built in the 11th century so it felt very ancient. I filled the room with white paper flowers. White is the color of funerals in Korea so I played with the concept of color.

GD: The idea of the in between is a major theme of these installations, how did you incorporate images from the past and present?

JK: The images of the cave installation, Untitled_ci09, are more ancient—I wanted to create the feel of an ancient cave. The fiber work is more modern. Most of the images on the fabric pieces come from the internet. If they look ancient it is because the figures on white and gray panels are deliberately nude. If a figure is nude, then it is more neutral. You can’t identify where or when it is from. Each color panel represents something different. The white panels are the future, the colored panels are the present and the gray panels are the past.

The "masculine" Untitled_ci09 is covered with gray sculpted figures in both high and low relief.

The structure is contructed of six hardwood panels that represent the Six Realms of rebirth.

GD: The two pieces are each very unique. How are they meant to function both together and individually?

JK: The cave in both shape and material is very phallic and male. The fiber piece is softer and female. I choose harsh material for the cave since it is masculine. The fiber is more meticulous and delicate and contains so many images together while the cave is simpler, visually at least. Men and women think differently and the installations show this.

The "feminine" Untitled_mi09 is an 8-foot wide circular structure suspended from the ceiling. The limited palette complements Kim's works' themes of transition and transformation.

JuYeon Kim installing Untitled_mi09 in the NMWA galleries. The work consists of three layers of fabric that represent past, present, and future. Each strip of fabric is embroidered with figures and fragments of narrative scenes.

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