Sunday, March 01, 2020

March 2020 Unicorn Of The Month: Nancy Kim

Nancy Kim Art. Titled Rise Amero. Acrylic paint skins, thread, terra cotta, porcelain, stoneware rice balls. 2019
"Riso Amaro" VSC install: Approximately 47 x 59 inches. Acrylic paint skins, thread,
terra cotta, porcelain, stoneware rice balls. 2019
Like the last two featured artists here, I met Nancy at The Vermont Studio Center in November of 2019. After her “Res Pres” talk, and the first open studios, I knew that I wanted to feature her here at some point. The timing of this post when coupled with global events is a bit odd. Maybe odd isn’t the right word. Maybe serendipitous is the right word. Whatever the right word is, the global response to COVID-19 has made clear that the fear of contracting disease has an ugly cousin: xenophobia. This xenophobia, the feelingoften the reality for many peopleof being, "both a subject and object in space…the language of fear often tied to immigrants” is at the heart of Nancy Kim’s work. But as I stated above, she is not UOTM because of global concerns around COVID-19. Nancy has been exploring the above-mentioned issues with a scientific, sculptural, humorous twist for years. And as a 2nd generation Korean-American, recent 1st generation Italian citizen, her work is all the more urgent. 

"I have been looking at microscopic imagery of disease. I have been talking about diasporic identity through food. I have been dreaming of ghosts and jellyfish."

I am a 2nd generation Korean-American, recent 1st generation Italian citizen: I am a “citizen-other.” I draw from my experiences of otherness and codify them into elements of art to create pieces both appealing and disturbing, familiar and strange. In reaction to the language of fear and xenophobia often tied to immigrants, I consider the visual codes of science, examination, and disease. My works toy with the absurdity and sadness in everyday parlance often related to disease that ties immigrant bodies to “foreign bodies.” I find myself trapped in the language and looking at myself as both a subject and object in space.

I am again and again caught between contexts. I have had to build and recreate my own contexts within pre-existing ones. My work has reflected this aspect by working with elements and symbols of pointed ambiguity and double entendre like the banana and rice. More recently my works have been exploring this liminal space by moving away from direct paint on canvas and instead moving towards installation, making the architecture of a space the canvas.


"Saturn Dreaming: Mercury Across The Border"40.5 x 43 in.Ink stamped bananas, acrylic paint on cut and pinned paper. 2018
"Saturn Dreaming: Mercury Across The Border"40.5 x 43 in. Ink stamped bananas, acrylic paint on cut and pinned paper. 2018
"Saturn Dreaming: Mercury Across The Border"40.5 x 43 in.Ink stamped bananas, acrylic paint on cut and pinned paper. 2018
Detail.

I started to encase objects, material, and painted patterns—fragments of thought—into resin, and then shifted to poured acrylic media. At the time, I did not know how they would exist in the world. They just wanted to be made. My earliest versions were small flat object/organisms haphazardly covering the floors and furniture of my studio, gently existing without aim. Once I started embedding thread as in Yellow Belly and Bite of the Medusa, they wanted to attach and bounce the color of their backs off the whiteness of the walls. The pieces could now talk more directly with their surroundings and acclimate to transitioning spaces and places.

"Bite Of The Medusa"62 x 62 in. Acrylic paint on watercolor paper pieces and yellow thread  embedded in Acrylic paint skin and pinned to wall by internal threads. 2018
"Bite Of The Medusa"62 x 62 in. Acrylic paint on watercolor paper pieces and yellow thread 
embedded in Acrylic paint skin and pinned to wall by internal threads. 2018
"Yellow Belly" 27.5 x 26 in. Spray paint and yellow thread embedded in acrylic paint  skin and pinned to wall by internal threads. 2018
"Yellow Belly" 27.5 x 26 in. Spray paint and yellow thread embedded in acrylic paint 
skin and pinned to wall by internal threads. 2018

At Vermont Studio Center this past November, I had access to a kiln for the first time since the ceramics mold-making class I took years ago. I have been working with processes and approaches learned in that class consistently throughout my painting practice. With the guidance of fellow resident artist/ceramicist Andrea Du Chatenier, I reapplied those approaches to clay. And I started creating ceramic balls that anchor the “jelly” skins as in I drew a line for you: And it was all Yellow. Resembling bits of coral and fossil, the balls suggest an opaque history that pins the floating “jelly” to the wall.


"I Drew A Line For You: And It Was All Yellow" 29 x 38 in. Acrylic paint skin, thread, stoneware 2019
"I Drew A Line For You: And It Was All Yellow"
29 x 38 in. Acrylic paint skin, thread, stoneware
2019
"I Drew A Line For You: And It Was All Yellow" 29 x 38 in. Acrylic paint skin, thread, stoneware 2019
Detail
In Riso Amaro, I embedded rice, symbolic of my Korean roots, into stoneware and terra cotta components, a nod to my adopted Italian home. I burned out the rice in the kiln, leaving behind rice-shaped cavities. The rice balls anchor the paint skins, stretched tightly by internally embedded threads, as ghosts underneath a translucent layer that suggest embedded culture, history, and trauma.
"Riso Amaro" VSC install: Approximately 47 x 59 inches. Acrylic paint skins, thread, terra cotta, porcelain, stoneware rice balls. 2019
"Riso Amaro" Detail 1.
"Riso Amaro" VSC install: Approximately 47 x 59 inches. Acrylic paint skins, thread, terra cotta, porcelain, stoneware rice balls. 2019
"Riso Amaro" Detail 2.
The layered compositions evoke disease at the microscopic level, biological organisms, networks, and mapping. Through forms that cling and adapt to pre- existing structures, the piece must adapt to structural systems and circumstances as immigrants do. The title Riso Amaro alludes to a play-on-words in Italian, “riso amaro” meaning both “bitter rice” and “bitter laughter” simultaneously. Of the same name, the title also refers to Giuseppe De Santis’s neorealist film’s influence on Willem DeKooning’s famous abstract expressionist painting Excavation.

"Riso Amaro" VSC install: Approximately 47 x 59 inches. Acrylic paint skins, thread, terra cotta, porcelain, stoneware rice balls. 2019
"Riso Amaro" Detail 3.
While DeKooning explores tension between figuration and abstraction, I explore tension between subject and object through layering, translucency, and shadow.


My works are meant to be looked at and looked into. Appealing and disturbing, they are meant to trigger a sensory experience. They are meant to act as metaphors for otherness with the bite of a slapstick joke.

To see more of Nancy's work, visit her Website and Instagram Page.

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