I am fascinated by the image of the empress as a complex of meanings. Lover, Empress is a composite work of my paintings of fictional Chinese empresses based on official portraits. In this project I explore her various potent contrasts: political/historical status versus finite mortality; institutional power versus sensual power; public life versus private life. Imagery structure addresses the transient nature of human beings within a rigid sociopolitical system. This project also speaks to the status of the iconic image for viewers in the internet age. The multiple layers of human nature that I address through this project I find to be both timeless and relevant to contemporary audiences. I created these portraits as a kind of new iconography representing, among other things, the contrast between authoritarian power and human vulnerability. For example: in one painting I glued hundreds of houseflies, which stand for the fleeting nature of life as well as the abject, onto the regal image. The empresses in my paintings simultaneously convey conflicting human qualities such as beauty and ugliness, intelligence and stupidity, aristocratic bearing and ordinary existence. In the making of each work, I tried to personalize and humanize the person depicted in the cold, official state portrait, while maintaining that poignant contrast. Experienced as a huge grid, the set folds into the traditional view from my Korean heritage that all living beings have a temporarily physical form, one that will die and be reborn in a different form but that carries some latent, secret knowledge from life to life.
Artist Bio / CV
Solo Exhibitions: 2002 Ilmin Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea 1999 Stux Gallery, New York, New York 1997 Space Untitled Gallery, New York, New York Reviews and Media Coverage: 2005 CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports 1999 The New York Times 1997 Art in America