Q: What inspires you to create?
A: Being an outsider. I really just spent my first year in L.A. walking around with a camera, observing people. To me, faces are important because they’re the thing you come across the most on a daily basis and, in a way, they’re the most overlooked.
My references come from coffee table books, photographs and also just walking outside with my camera and asking people if I can take quick portraits of them. It enables me to get involved with the community in my own way as an artist and to be able to bring more life to my paintings.
Q: At what moment in your life did you decide to dedicate yourself to art?
A: I was working at a sushi restaurant, waiting tables, and at night I’d come home and I would just sketch away. From there, I started posting some of these things on Instagram and Facebook and I started to get a lot of good feedback. I gained a little bit of confidence. From there, I had one of those days when I had a miserable shift and I made an instant decision, at that moment, to just quit…I immediately went to the canvas and picked up a brush, and I just felt at home.
Q: Who or what is your largest artistic influence?
A: My parents immigrated to the US from South Korea in the late ‘80s. Without a community or a grasp of the English language, they were truly strangers in a foreign land. Some years after they immigrated, they began to sell wholesale clothing, so I spent much of my childhood helping my parents lay out cheap denim jeans on display tables and watching competing vendors vie for the best space at the local swap-meet. These were the hustlers that I grew up with and respected.
Now, it’s the hubbub of the garment district that’s influences my work in a new way. In the past year, I have been inspired by visits to neighboring fabric stores where I stockpile discarded remnants to bleach and attach to canvases. These newer pieces are truly the by-product of my family’s trade and the most accessible and authentic way of reconciling my past and current life.
Q: What message(s) do you strive to communicate in your work?
A: As an artist, I think the most important thing is for your audience to have some kind of reaction, whether it’s joy, anger, dislike or distaste. There is no specific thing I’m trying to convey, I don’t want to implant anything in anybody’s head, and that’s the beautiful thing about art – everything is open to interpretation, everything is subjective.
Q: Is there a particular commentary you instill in your public works?
A: The fragments in my work are a representation of the complexities of human emotion.
When you come across my painting, I hope that it enables you to stop and almost see yourself, allowing it to be some kind of reflection.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring artists in Los Angeles and/or those hoping to enter the DTLA arena?
A: I sold my first painting for $1,300. It was the greatest feeling. It was a confidence boost, and I think when you’re starting off as an artist that’s all you really need.
Q: What do you believe sets you apart from other artists in DTLA?
A: Being from Indiana and Korean, there are things in my life that, no matter how much time changes and how much I adapt to different environments, there’s a piece of my identity that I never want to lose and that’s what comes out through in my painting.
Q: How will OLiVE allow you to pursue and progress your career? (Or what does this residency mean to you?)
A: Through this residency, I would like to continue to explore the different colors, mediums, flavors and noises that DTLA has to offer. I’d like to use OLiVE DTLA as a one-stop shop: to showcase my work to journalists, filmmakers, bloggers and gallery owners. It’d be a place for me to live, work and continue to create the artwork (and my personal love letters) to Los Angeles.