5 Fast Facts: Jiha Moon

Impress your friends with five fast facts about artist Jiha Moon (b. 1973), whose work is on view in NMWA’s collection galleries.

1. Family Dynamics

Growing up as the middle child in her family, Moon had to fight for attention and concentrated on developing her painting and drawing skills to attract notice. Moon’s parents supported her growing talent and continuing artistic education.

2. Citizen of the World

Born in Daegu, South Korea, Moon earned her BFA and her first MFA in Seoul. Although she currently lives and works in Atlanta, Moon has worked and studied all over the U.S., including Washington, D.C., where she began her professional career.

Jiha Moon, Cascade Crinoline, 2008; Ink and acrylic on hanji paper, 41 x 59 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of the Georgia State Committee of NMWA; © Jiha Moon

3. Paper Preparedness

Moon often works on hanji—handmade Korean mulberry paper. She buys a year’s supply when she visits Korea. Her use of hanji is significant as one way in which she combines artistic traditions from different cultures. Cascade Crinoline (2008), an ink and acrylic work on hanji paper, references classical Asian painting and reflects her interest in animation and cartoons.

4. Mixing Medium

Before she explored abstraction at the University of Iowa, Moon’s early works focused on figures. Moon worked primarily with paint until she started incorporating more collage elements after a residency at the Fabric Workshop and Museum from 2009 to 2010, and began working with ceramics in late 2012.

Jiha Moon, Leia, 2013; Ceramic and glaze, 13 x 8 x 8 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of the Georgia Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts; © Jiha Moon; Photo courtesy of the artist

5. Title Matters

When Moon titles her artwork, she considers information that would help an individual examining the image. Her titles allow viewers to “get into [her] world.” Moon’s ceramic work in NMWA’s collection, titled Leia (2013), references the character of Princess Leia in Star Wars—and her iconic two-bun hairstyle.

—Ashley W. Harris is the associate educator at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Spotlight: Jiha Moon

The fourth installment of NMWA’s biennial exhibition series, Organic Matters—Women to Watch 2015 is presented by the museum and participating national and international outreach committees. The exhibition’s artists redefine the relationship between women, art, and nature.

Organic Matters—Women to Watch 2015
Artist: Jiha Moon
Nominating committee: Georgia Committee / Consulting curator: Michael Rooks, High Museum of Art

Jiha Moon at NMWA; Photo credit: Laura Hoffman

Jiha Moon at NMWA; Photo credit: Laura Hoffman

Jiha Moon is known for her blend of traditional materials and pop culture iconography. Like a “cartographer of cultures,” Moon is interested in creating images that can be read differently by people with different backgrounds. The Korean-born artist says, “Translating cultural incongruities is one of the most exciting and nerve-wracking experiences I have.”

Moon mixes nature and culture in Peach Mask I, Leia, and Immortal Dessert—all on view in Organic Matters. Each work incorporates the shape of a peach. A prominent symbol in the state of Georgia, the peach also represents happiness and longevity in Korean culture.

The works in Organic Matters are exemplary of Moon’s cross-cultural artistic style. In many of her works, Moon deconstructs and layers iconic images into uncharacteristic positions. Peach Mask I mixes acrylic forms together with calligraphic ink swirls. Upon closer examination, the viewer can find recognizable shapes—like those of the video-game characters Angry Birds. Through combining figurative elements and abstract, gestural strokes, Moon hopes to create kaleidoscopic works that are “somewhat familiar yet very strange at the same time.”

Jiha Moon, Peach Mask I, 2013; Ink and acrylic on Hanji paper, 38 x 38 1/2 in.; Courtesy of the artist

Jiha Moon, Peach Mask I, 2013; Ink and acrylic on Hanji paper, 38 x 38 1/2 in.; Courtesy of the artist

Although she was trained as a painter, she has also explored textiles and ceramics. Moon’s fascination with clay lies in its “long history connecting East and West. As an Asian American artist, this is such a rich area to explore and to research.” Two of her ceramic works are showcased in Organic Matters. Leia incorporates traditional colors found in Asian ceramics with Star Wars references. Similarly, Immortal Dessert melds a Cheshire cat, smiley face emoticons, and fortune cookies. All are common motifs for Moon. Fortune cookies—an American invention—are of particular interest to the artist as the “biggest misunderstanding of Asianness.”

Although her works use images from today’s culture, her materials are often traditional. She frequently uses Hanji, a Korean Mulberry paper. She said, “I buy a year’s supply when I visit Korea.”

In a gallery talk at the museum, Moon told visitors her influences are “where I travel, who I meet, and . . . things I see in nature.” She compares her surrealistic works to her life in the U.S., saying, “I always feel like I’m sort of in between places all the time and I try to find the beauty within that . . . Identity is something really complex and shifty and changeable and that type of thing is always present in my work.”

—Emily Haight is the digital editorial assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.