藝術家專訪｜跨越藩籬的藝術對話：旅芝加哥韓國藝術家李憓林 Haerim Lee
Updated: May 13, 2022
Chicago-based Artist Hearim (Rim) Lee's Methods of Story Telling
採訪編輯 Edited and translation by｜謝蕎安 Joanne Hsieh
圖 Image courtesy｜李憓林 Haerim Lee 提供
芝加哥, USA. Chicago, IL
Hi Rim, can you tell us about yourself? Where are you from and where are you currently based at? What recommendations do you have for visitors?
Hi, my name is Rim, I am orginally from South Korea and currently based in Chicago. I live in Hyde Park, it has a very diverse peoples from different ethnic backgrounds and cultural heritages. Chicago has such wonderful museums like the Art Institute, Museum of Contemporary Art, and Museum of Science and Industry. There are lots of galleries and hip restaurants in Westloop.
I am originally from S. Korea, and currently I am living in Chicago as an international artist. For visitors, Insa-dong in Seoul is worth it to spend time; you can explore Korean traditional cultural Heritage. Seoul has a lot of wonderful restaurants and coffee shops that you can enjoy, especially in Insa-dong. It is pretty affordable and street food is also good!
「芝加哥方面，我喜歡逛一些文化古蹟，例如Driehause Museum（原為1883年芝加哥一富商的宅邸，後於2003年成立專門展示建築與傢俱設計的藏館）；或是芝加哥建築文化中心，藉此吸收一些關於芝加哥建築史的知識。建築設計師巨擎佛蘭克．勞埃德．賴特（Frank Lloyd Wright）所設計、居住的一棟建築之一，則座落在芝加哥的橡樹公園區。」
When I'm in Chicago, I like to visit historical sites such as Driehaus Museum or Chicago Architecture Foundation to learn about the history of architecture in Chicago. Wicker Park is also a cool neighborhoods which has good local restaurants for the young and trendy. Oak Park is also a good place to visit and you can learn about Frank Lloyd Wright's house!
How would you describe your work to a stranger?
Rim：「我的藝術大多和政治議題或歷史有關，有時對觀者來說可能過於沈重。但我喜歡關注特定區域和族群的故事，我比較接近一個”說故事者“。我的繪畫和其他創作形式在視覺上看來不太相關，但他們全都代表著這些故事的不同章節。」 Often, my art practice deals with political issues or history, which can be heavily- loaded subject matters to the viewer. However, my practice is about telling stories of particular sites and communities. I think of myself more of a story-teller. My painting projects are visually different but they all represent different chapters of my stories.
What is it that you want the viewer to take away from your work (through a cold read)?
Rim：「我希望觀者能欣賞我在 2D 平面上的創造的質地和觸感。想要了解作品後的故事的觀者會自願深入了解內容。我對於讓觀者了解我的創作動機並不那麼在意，他們可以自行決定想要消化多少內容。」 I hope viewers can enjoy the experience of texture and surface on two-dimensional surfaces. If they have more interest to know about the story behind, then the viewer can enter the content of my work. I am less interested in reinforcing to the audience to understand all of the context of it. They have an ownership of how much they want to digest and interpret.
You work in several different mediums: paintings, murals, artist books and photography. What’s something that connects them visually?
Rim：「我喜歡用不同形式來表現不同的專案。也許這是為什麼每個專案在視覺上看起來都不太統一。但是仍有一些共通點，比方說我喜歡在不同媒材上表現怎麼用2D的平面上製造質地，藉此進入內我的聲音，或是藉此和不同的社會族群溝通、對話。」 I use different mediums to be able to implement different projects. Perhaps (this is why) sometimes they don't connect visually. But there are some common grounds. for example, I (like to) explore different mediums to work on 2 dimensional surfaces to think about texture to enter my inner voice or create dialogue from/with/for the community.
延續上一個問題，你個人最喜歡使用的媒材是什麼？ To continue on the last questions, do you have a personal favorite medium to work with?
Rim：「我最愛的是油畫；再來是數位攝影，很容易操作。」 I love to work with oil painting, which is my favorite. The second medium I like is digital photography, which is easy to control.
Ｑ：你的創作論述中提到希望藉由你的藝術來激盪對話。可以舉一個實際的例子嗎？You stated in your artist statement that your goal is to stimulate dialogues through art. Can you give us a specific example?
Rim：「藉由藝術來激盪對話的想法，應該是我在開始繪製壁畫的時候形成的。回顧芝加哥的壁畫藝術史，其實一直和社區對話息息相關。我和許多社區機構一起工作，比方 Archi-Treasures，芝加哥公共藝術社群（Chicago Public Art Group），以及 Plant Chicago，共同實踐社群導向的公共藝術創作。如此說來我的創作是以社群（community）導向的-- 我和芝加哥內的社群共同創作壁畫。」
I think the idea of stimulating dialogues through my art emerged ever since I’ve been working as a mural artist. When I traced back the history of Chicago murals, it is very much rooted in community engagement. I’ve been working with community organizations such as Archi-Treasures, Chicago Public Art Group, and Plant Chicago to implement community-oriented public-art making. In a way my practice is community driven— I create public murals with the community in Chicago.
「舉例來說，2020年 的“We Stand For" 這個壁畫，我和我的合作夥伴在Bronzeville一起教一個暑期營，我們帶Lake Grove 公寓社區的學生一起在 “向上發展中心” 畫室內壁畫。ˋˇˋ這些壁畫旨在反映 ”系統性歧視“ 以及在課程一開始，我們詢問年輕學生們對於目前的政治運動（Black Lives Matter）有什麼看法及感受，以及如合克服這個困境。」 For example, the mural “We Stand For”, my collaborator and I taught summer camp in 2020 to create indoor murals at the Center of Higher Development in the Lake Grove Apartment community in Bronzeville. The murals address systematic racism and protesting as a response to current political moments. In the beginning of the class, we asked the young students about the political movement, and how they feel about it; and how to overcome this situation.
We then gathered the words, phrases, and symbols from students’ drawings and included them into the mural design. By executing workshops, the students learned how to address social justice, worked with the people from different backgrounds with respectful manners. The artists and organizers are from diverse backgrounds—African American, Asian American, and Asian—which was a cross-cultural art initiation.
The process of mural making was important because there was a racial complexity in the mural making. We learned how to break the silence, create a positive tone, and visual elements by working together. The process of the project addresses equality, freedom of expression, and justice. This example shows my core practice-- working with the community, exchanging, initiating a safe and positive space. The mural became a platform to make it visible to tell their stories, creating a space of agency and providing ownership.
In my latest abstract painting series, Object and Subjective painting (2018-), I attempt to create architectural surface on canvas by recollecting my own memories, objects, narratives from the community. Creating from the margin, I explore the relationship between location and cultural identity to question inclusivity and exclusivity, racial diversity, resistance, and positionality.
What’s your favorite body of work created by another artist?
Rim：「我一直非常喜歡Angel Otero's 以及 Kerry James Marshall 的創作。」 I always adore Angel Otero’s work as well as Kerry James Marshall’s paintings.
How was your path of becoming a professional artist?
「我去年才拿到我最後一個degree。我沒有預料這個過程會如此漫長。我非常高興能夠在芝加哥藝術學院拿到繪畫以及視覺評論的碩士學位。繪畫碩士學位的過程對我來說有點像在讀普大，因為那是我第一次來到美國讀書的經驗。雖然我在南韓有深厚油畫訓練的基底，我不知道如何拓展我的視覺語言和觀點。在拿到繪畫碩士學位以後，我覺得還是不夠。我特別喜歡挑戰自己學習更多學術論文的能力，所以選擇繼續第二個碩士學位。」 I have a long educational background which I just finished last May. I did not expect it to be such a long journey. I am so glad that I obtained both the Master degrees of Painting and Drawing department (2017) and Visual and Critical Studies (VCS) (2020) at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I’d like to say MFA time was like an undergraduate experience for me, because it was my first experience studying in the United States. Although I had training in traditional oil painting in S. Korea, I did not know how to expand on my visual language and ideas. After obtaining the MFA Painting&Drawing, I felt that that was not enough for me. I'd especially like to challenge myself to learn more about academic writing so I chose a 2nd master degree at SAIC again with a scholarship.
While I was in VCS, I honed into writing practice. I did a lot of research and interviewed on Chicago Murals, which was an ethnographic research. I enjoyed learning about the stories behind the mural making, which made me feel contemporary. I also felt that it was a form of discovery of marginalized groups.
Have you experienced any difficulties or misunderstandings as a foreign/immigrant female artist working in Chicago?
Rim：「非常多次。在芝加哥，韓國文化或是亞裔文化的可見度很低，或是有很大的誤解。亞洲人口只佔芝加哥的 4.5％，屬於最邊緣化的族群。許多我認識的亞裔美國人是在我小時候的年紀移民過來的，他們大部分會說兩種語言。我希望能夠看到更多有關亞洲女性以及有色人種女性的談話。」 Many times. There is a lack of visibility or misrepresentation of Koreanness or Asianness. Asian is only 4.5% in Chicago, that makes us the most marginalized community. A lot of Asian-Americans who I know in Chicago are immigrants. They immigrated when I was young, so some of them are bi-lingual. I hope there are more conversations about (around) Asian female identity as a woman of color.
Who inspire you? Who are some of your favorite writers, artists, ( or it can be someone in your life.) Bell Hooks, Romi N Crawford Artists: Lee Bul, Haegue Yang, Angel Otero, Kerry James Marshall, and so many! Curators who I worked with: Greg Ruffing, Sabrina Greig , Adina Jade Cosden , Erin Toale, etc Ｑ：從事藝術創作以來最美好的經驗是什麼？最具挑戰性的部分是？
What is your best memory experience during your artistic career so far? And the most challenging?
WhenI finally got into the acceptance from residencies, open calls, or grants after tons of rejections. I think the most challenging thing as an artist is to protect your studio time. I need to commit my time to hone into my practice. Because of this, I think it is hard to have enough time to cultivate life. As a women of color, I think it makes me feel more challenging.
What are your thoughts on #StopAsianHate ?
對於亞特蘭大槍擊案我真的深感不幸。我感到很困惑且生氣。個人認為身為亞裔女性藝術家，針對探討亞洲女性意識和正向意識非常重要。亞洲女人經常被描繪成受害者或是被動的個性，這是美國普遍對於亞洲女性的刻板印象，我希望能透過創造藝術提升亞洲人能見度，特別是透過我的女性人體畫像系列。我也希望亞裔藝術家能一起創造更團結的聲量，關注種族正義。」 It is very unfortunate that the intense incident happened the Atlanta shooting. I was very confused and upset by this. As an Asian female artist, it is important to address Asian female identity, initiating positivity of Asian women. Asian women are usually portrayed as victims or people who have passive personality. However, this is just a stereo typical perspective in the US. I hope to show more positive Asian visibility through my art practice in the future, especially through my painting series Women Figure Paintings. Plus, I am also hoping that together Asian artists create more collective voice to address racial justice happening in the west.
What’s the best advice you’ve received? Rim：「我近期在Ox-bow駐村，同期的獨立作家艾瑞卡．卡德威（Erica Cardwell）鼓勵我多創作一些關於能夠增加我“身體”的能見度的畫作。我認為這是再好不過的建議了！」
I recently had an Ox-bow residency with Erica Cardwell who is an independent writer. She encourages me to paint more about Visibility of my body. I think it was the best advice ever!
Ｑ：你有推薦的紀錄片或書籍嗎？ Can you recommend us a documentary or a book(s)?
Rim：「我推薦貝爾．虎克斯（Bell Hooks）的 Art On My Mind。」
Bell Hooks, Art On My Mind.
What are some short and long-term goals for you? RIm：「我長期和短期的目標都是先能夠以藝術家身份維生。除了商業展出以外我也希望在非營利機構展出作品。今年我將由養心畫廊代理參加台灣的幾個展覽，希望能認識一些台灣的朋友。」
(Both of) my short and my long term goals are to survive as an artist. I plan to show my work at non-profit spaces as well as commercial spaces. I am showing some works in a couple of shows in Taiwan with Artnutri Gallery; I am hoping that I can engage with more Taiwanese audience.
Special thanks to Haerim Lee