Saturday, February 6, 2010

Featured Artist: Soojin Kim


First of all, would you please introduce yourself to our readers that might not be familiar with you and your work?

Featured artist, Soojin Kim with her award-winning painting Cracker Box, 46 x 60", oil on canvas. Image courtesy of Soojin Kim.

My name is Soojin Kim. I was born in Seoul, Korea. I have been living in Boston, Massachusetts since 2000. I came to the United States to further my graduate studies in Electrical Engineering at Boston University. During my studies in Boston, I was exposed to Western art in a museum context. This experience has made a powerful impact on my aesthetic sensibility and led to the change of focus in my studies and career. Soon after I received my Master of Science from Boston University in 2002, I enrolled in the School of the Museum of Fine Art to study art. I completed my Diploma of Fine Art program in 2009, am currently enrolled in the 5th year program.

When and how did you get interested in art making?

I was always making something, but I didn’t realize it was art, and I didn’t expect it to become a career either.

What do you do for fun besides making art?

There are many activities that I enjoy doing. I love traveling, visiting museums and galleries, meeting old friends and reading books.

Soojin visiting the De Young Museum in San Francisco. Image courtesy of Soojin Kim.

What I love the most in the art museum is the 17th and 18th centuries still-life paintings. They have a different quality of reality than what modern photography has. I became interested in the ability of objects’ carrying memories across time and space.

Daehung Temple - My trip to Korea in 2006. Image courtesy of Soojin Kim

In 2006, which was the year after my father’s death, I traveled along the Korean coast lines with my family. After many years of living outside of my home country, everything felt so different and precious.

Praying stone towers - my trip to Korea in 2006. Image courtesy of Soojin Kim

Image courtesy of Soojin Kim.

We stopped at many old Buddhist temples. I am not a religious person, but while looking at all these religious artifacts like statue of Buddha and hundreds of stone towers around the temple, all of sudden I could understand why they were there. They were not so different from what I was doing with candies. Objects have the power of carrying thoughts and memories across space, time, culture and generations. And art has the biggest power of it.

What type of job(s) have you had in the past?

I worked as a researcher at Boston University for about four years designing and simulating semiconductor devices.

Currently, what type of job(s) you do besides making art?

Currently I do not hold any full time position but studying and making art.

Please tell us a bit about your paintings in general. Could you discuss a bit your creative process?

I paint large scale still-lives with oil on canvas. The focus of my objects have been American candy and sweets.

Candies, 48 x 46", Oil on Canvas, 2009. Image courtesy of Soojin Kim.

I like the objectivity of these inanimate objects, and yet these objects are tightly related to certain emotions or memories that many times are common to us regardless of our gender, age, sex, or nationality.

Red Yellow Blue m&m's, 9 x 12", Oil and Shellac on Board, 2003.
Image courtesy of Soojin Kim

I carefully choose the objects that have special meaning to me. Then I construct images out of these objects from my memories of certain moments and paint them. In that way I create an emotional or sensual communication between my personal experience and the viewer’s.

Sandwich Cracker, 40 x 65", Oil on Canvas, 2008. Image courtesy of Soojin Kim.

My process is all about mix and matches the opposites. I am having fun with bringing classical and contemporary concepts/techniques, representation and abstraction, Western and Asian philosophies on one canvas in terms of memories and objects. My works can be approached in many ways, and I intended that be so. It can be only about a subject, color and composition, the way I paint or the story behind them.

What are the thoughts and inspirations behind these delicious American candies you're painting? What is the specific message you strive to convey to your viewers?

My paintings are a combined result of my interest and favor of baroque style still-life paintings and my memories of my father's obsession toward American candies.

My father as a young boy, This picture was taken in 1954.
Image courtesy of Soojin Kim

My father was a young boy during the Korean War. He would stay around American soldiers who would give him American chocolates, candies, cookies etc. Even when I was grown up he brought home American sweets almost every day and our family shared them. When I think of my father who died a few years ago, these memory images were coming out of my head and I had to paint them.

Chocolate Bars, 12 x 12", Oil on Canvas, 2004. Image courtesy of Soojin Kim.

These images are captured from those moments of joy that both my father and I experienced in our childhoods. The images portray the joy of eating, biting, chewing, licking, and types of childhood play like stacking, sorting, and role-playing.

Oreo Box, 48 x 54", Oil on Canvas, 2009. Image courtesy of Soojin Kim

The juxtaposition of pop subject matter and a classical format of painting creates humor and interest. I am questioning what the value of these candies is and the value of the memory that comes with it.

Peanut Butter Cups, 12 x 9", Oil on Board, 2006. Image courtesy of Soojin Kim.

I found it was even more interesting when I blew up the scale. As they get larger they feel more powerful; cookies become buildings, or cars or machines, stacks of cookies become architecture and more iconic.

Are you currently showing your work?

Soojin in her studio. Image courtesy of Yoonjoo Kim

No, currently I do not have shows, but you're always welcome to visit my studio in South End, Boston.

Are you planning any exhibitions of your work in the near future?

Oreo, 22 x 30", Conte Crayon on Paper. Image courtesy of Soojin Kim

I will be showing my work in two exhibitions this March. One at the Higgins Art Gallery at Cape Cod Community College, and the other one at Grossman Gallery at the School of the Museum of Fine Art.

From March 2 - April 9, the Higgins Art Gallery will present a joint exhibition Here[NOW] curated by Betty Carroll Fuller. This exhibit features the work of three regional artists, including myself, and I will be showing my American candies paintings. Gallery reception has been scheduled for Saturday, March 6, from 12 to 3pm. For more info, please visit the Higgins website.

To be held in Grossman Gallery at the School of the Museum of Fine Art from March 31 – May 1 will be the Fifth Year Exhibition 2010, featuring a wide range of works in both media and scope. The focus of my 5th year exhibition is based on experiences gained from my trip to Korea in 2006. In addition to exhibiting my paintings, I will also construct a prayer space in memory of my father. The 5th Year Exhibition allows participants to compete for the prestigious Traveling Scholarship Awards, which provide funds to develop our work through travel and the opportunity to exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. So please come, join us at the opening reception on March 31, from 5–8 pm.

Please tell us about the awards and recognitions you received in the past years.

I won the 2009 Dana Pond Award and the 2008 Boit Award from the School of the Museum of Fine Art.

Soojin's award-winning painting entitled Peanut Butter Cups, 42 x 44", Oil on Canvas, 2009. Image courtesy of Soojin Kim

Would you provide links to articles and reviews about your work?

The article Paying it Forward by June Wulff published in the Boston Globe on September 21, 2009.

How have you handled the business side of being an artist?

Soojin participated in Simply the Best exhibition held at the Boston Museum of Fine Art Courtyard Gallery in 2009. Image courtesy of Soojin Kim.

It is really hard to handle the business side of being an artist all by myself, especially when it comes to negotiating. However, business is always a part of being a professional artist. So, I am learning and getting better at it.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I will be making art as now.

Soojin in her studio. Image courtesy of Yoonjoo Kim

Soojin's top ten artists.
  1. John Currin
  2. Jenny Saville
  3. Sol Lewitt
  4. Sean Scully
  5. Clause Oldenburg
  6. Wayne Thiebaud
  7. Giorgio Morandi
  8. James McNeil Whistler
  9. Simeon Chardin
  10. Johaness Vermeer

Are you available for commissioned works? Representing gallery if any?

Smarties, 7.5 x 11", Oil on Board, 2006. Image courtesy of Soojin Kim.

Currently I am looking for a representing gallery. I am happy to accept commissioned works, so please contact me.

Would you like to share your contact info with our readers? Do you have website(s) for interested readers to learn more about your work?

Your readers may contact me at My website is

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

I hope that they can be more convinced and believe in themselves. Always keep an open eye and ear on old and new.

Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your work?

I believe art should manifest some kind of emotion. It may be either a happy or a sad one. Whatever it is, just enjoy it.