Visiting Artist Kakyoung Lee

Visiting Artist: Kakyoung Lee

 I saw Kakyoung Lee’s artist lecture during my studio arts class. She is an artist who was born and raised in South Korea and moved to the United States after college; she now resides in New York with her husband and two children. The first photos of her work she presented were her early pieces she made in college, which I liked more than her later and recent pieces.They represented herself, and her “surroundings and daily life,” in Korea. The focus of the work is of Korean individuals that have a very stylized and cartoonish look to them. One piece featured a few people sitting around a white table “gossiping,” which was represented by the body parts of the person talked about on the gossiper’s forks as if they were eating the person the gossip victim. I found that to be a really creative and interesting idea to convey such a topic. After she showed these images, it became clear that her main line of work was in creating drawings and bringing them to life through animation. The rest of the lecture we watched video after video, and I must admit I found myself less and less captivated as the pieces became more recent, but her early videos I loved and found them to be moving.

One thing stood out to me about her videos, they almost always focused on an individual in solitude. They are very simple but have a great sense of originality to them. Many of them featured an individual walking, and the path that they walked would leave a path of their shadows trailing behind them to make the walk seem more dramatic and enhanced. The fact that they were actual sketches that came alive made it much more personal, and on top of that sounds were dubbed over the images to evoke the viewer’s senses; sounds such as water in a faucet running, the wind outside blowing and rain hitting a tin roof, or even the heavy breathing of the characters as they travel.

The video piece that touched me the most was called “Night Journey,” and featured one of her lone funky looking characters traveling on foot to bike to bus and back on foot again. All of a sudden, the character sits down and opens his bag he has been carrying all along to find it empty, and a sudden terrible wailing cry fills the air. As a viewer we never know what the traveler had, we just know he was incredibly upset about whatever item he had lost. The video then ended with a sense of mystery hanging in the air, and an incredible emotional feeling of loss and pity for the character. The sounds are what really make her pieces come to life and I think that is very important to the success in her videos, aside from the fact that it sometimes takes her a couple years to complete one piece.

As the pieces showed progressed into her newer works, there was an obvious change from solitude to a sense of family. Her most recent works featured her children and husband; one work called “Day Series” features many snippets of simple moments that occur in her everyday life. One, 20 second snippet had a cartoon of herself taking a shower, followed by another of her picking up her child and pushing her around her stroller. These were very simplistic which is why I found them quite unappealing. However, I think that I relate to her earlier pieces because I am still a traveler in my college years but I don’t relate to her newest work because I and have not settled down and had a family.

Kakyoung did not really talk to explicitly about how her work was made but rather gave simple descriptions. Her early drawings involved simple sketching and use of the etching technique intermixed with printmaking. After college she did not do much printmaking because she no longer had access to such facilities, so her animated videos became her main focus. As her videos progressed they went from colorful individuals on the search for something within nature to plain drawings of her or her family that were less colorful, and highly simplified. However, with her later videos she began to video people and places outside and then draw overtop of the images.

There did not seem to be a clear message Kakyoung tried to portray in her work, rather just represent her life, at first focusing on her daily surroundings and then representing her family. I think she means to invite the viewer into her personal life and also invite them to be more observant of their own lives. Her work is impressive because of how much time and effort goes into each piece, and she finds creative ways to represent her work in galleries to make it even more special. With her videos, she will play the video on a wall and then have multiple prints of her drawings scene to scene of the same video covering the wall next to it. It helps the viewer to see her creative process in the makings and then the final product next to it, which is really cool. Another thing that was awesome was how she portrayed her video “Grand Army Plaza,” inside of a window. Where the window was ajar, that open space was where the video filled. It made the piece much more interesting and somewhat abstract, also because the windows were different; one window was drawn onto the wall and another was 3-D and hung off of it.

Kakyoung Lee has some very interesting ideas but she really leaves her work up to interpretation to the viewer. She is very soft spoken and seems somewhat shy, but you can see she has clearly developed into the woman she is now through her artwork. That is what makes her work effective, because there are many pieces the viewer can relate to and others that are simply left to be contemplated.

^ has some videos on vimeo

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