As a “cartographer of cultures,” Jiha Moon strives to be “a visual interpreter of the mixed cultural worlds of [her] generation.” The Atlanta-based artist creates kaleidoscopic works of art that reference map-making practices, traditional Asian landscape paintings, and Western pop-culture iconography. She refers to her dynamic compositions, layered with gestural brushstrokes with surrealistic forms, as “mind-scapes.”
Originally from rural South Korea, Moon moved to the U.S. to study at the Maryland Institute College of Art and later at the University of Iowa. Her works reflect her cross-cultural artistic formation, drawing inspiration from Asian and American art. She often uses an electric color palette of ink and acrylic paint on hanji (a traditional Korean paper made from the inner bark of the mulberry tree). Additionally, she uses ancient calligraphic techniques—placing her paper on the floor, standing or kneeling over it, and applying quick, confident pen and brush strokes. Only after she has constructed an abstract composition does she rework her markings to suggest familiar images.
Many of Moon’s works are sprinkled with cartoon characters, such as Disney’s Cheshire Cat. However, she does not consider herself a cartoonist: “I can’t really draw cartoons. I look at spontaneous mark-making and imagine creatures or shapes quickly, solidifying a kind of Rorschach response to incidental forms in my work.”
NMWA recently acquired Moon’s mesmerizing Cascade Crinoline, 2008, as a gift from the museum’s Georgia State Committee. Bursting with imagery, Cascade Crinoline’s exuberant blues, greens, and fuchsias suggest gusts of wind, wispy clouds, and flowing rivers. Scattered eyes and arabesque lines transform into dragons (a common motif in Moon’s art). Thin red lines threaded throughout her work look like flight patterns, reminiscent of her cartographic influences. With close observation, a phantom hand appears, as well as a multi-colored scalloped pattern. The faint image of a tree keeps the maelstrom of colors and lines grounded within this floating landscape. And as with any Rorschach inkblot, viewers’ eyes can summon an infinite variety of images. Jiha Moon’s art represents a harmony of opposites: East and West, current and classical, tangible and fanciful.
—Emily Haight is the publications and communications intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.