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Dave Kim

Korean American


I appropriate symbols, patterns, colors, traditions from the culture that feels so familiar to me, but as I get older, I realize, outside of intentional research, I don’t truly understand the meanings of those things. I may look Korean on the outside but an attempt to integrate into modern Korean society will quickly demonstrate that I am otherwise. To further complicate things, the little of Korea that I know was gleaned from a family who left it in the 1970s never to look back, and so a Korea frozen in time was handed down to me essentially, while the mother country is currently and rapidly distancing itself from its history. I then find myself a foreigner to the land 6,000 miles away, yet hopelessly drawn to it because it holds the secrets to who I am. The circumstances, wars, traditions, decisions that shaped my great grandparents, shaped all the subsequent generations, and hold the keys to my parents and finally me. I choose the images from this particular culture as a proxy for a more universal subject matter. Sometimes I adorn walls with these familiar patterns thereby making a strange place more like home. For this particular piece, the composition is based on traditional Korean folk Minhwa style, specifically munjado, with elements inspired by traditional embroidery motifs. Found across 5 continents, the barn swallow is the most widespread species of swallow in the world, symbolically alluding to the idea of universality. As someone who's caught between two cultures, I've taken the form based on my historical heritage and replaced the elements to reflect a more contemporary and relevant aesthetic, thereby changing the intended meaning of the original works from specific to more universal.


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