Gold Crowns, beads and strings emerging from canvases, and the tiny dots of Braille—the language of the blind—infused into the artworks like secret patterns; this is how one might describe the artwork of Hyun Jung Kim.

Hyun Jung Kim was born in Seoul, South Korea, where she obtained her BFA. She now lives and work in the United States where she earned an MFA and then went on to teach at the college level. Her art has been featured in an array of exhibitions at well-respected venues including A.I.R.

Gallery, the Newark Museum, PPOW Gallery, Belskie Museum, and the George Segal Gallery. Kim was also invited to partake in the 19th International “Jewelry Art Symposium” where her artwork is now part of the permanent collection of the Museum Turnov, in the Czech Republic.

Recently, Kim was granted a solo exhibition at the Woman’s National Democratic Club, in Washington D.C. which she titled “Blind in art- One (2017-2018).” She can also be found participating in international art fairs such as Art Hampton New York, ArtExpo, Singapore Contemporary and Asia Contemporary Art Show Hong Kong.

Moreover, she was selected as an associate artist at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Virginia.

Kim is inspired by ontological studies, history, philosophy, and the properties and capabilities of various mediums like liquid, metal, paint, beads, and others. She specifically uses the dots/codes of the Braille language to both add visual dimension to her pieces and deliver meaning via the words conveyed.

Her most recent series is a number of golden crowns, infused with Braille, that effectively double as jewelry. Kim encourages people to wear the crowns, which often have symbolic meanings. For instance, one that she dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr. has the Braille words for “I have a dream” embedded in it.

Recently, Hyun Jung Kim granted an exclusive interview where she discussed her crowns, her artistic hopes, and more.

Crowns, creativity, and Braille

Meagan Meehan (MM): What initially inspired you to make artwork and what are the biggest differences you have found between the Korean art scene and the American one?

Hyun Jung Kim (HJK): The question about myself “Who am I?” was my starting point for my work. The current understanding and changes regarding human values and relations inspire me to make my artwork. I could not find much difference between the Korean and American art scenes since Korea is very globalized these days. However, I noticed that the American art scene is closed to the public; an easy way to say is, there are a lot of higher practicalities than the Korean one.

MM: Your work is extremely unique because it includes Braille, the language of the blind. What prompted you to use Braille in your work? For instance, did you know someone who was blind?

HJK: Thank you, this is the question I have gotten the most often from visitors. I do not know any blind persons around me, but I did experience “cultural blindness” when I moved to America about twenty years ago. Although I could see, I couldn’t see… One day while entering a seminar room, I saw the dots on the wall. Those dots are in Braille and dots are what artists use as a basic element of art (dot, line, color, etc.).

The idea of “blind in art” hit my mind at that moment. I want to make decorative or abstract appearance with dots in Braille and convey meaning in a language from behind.

MM: You have been an art teacher as well as an artist, so how did the experience of interacting with students influence your own creativity?

HJK: In Korea, we call the teacher “선생Sun Sang” which means “early born.” My understanding of teaching is as an early born; I deliver what I have experienced/ efficiently taught to the next generation, and I took it as very meaningful and valuable thing. However, it needs a really high level of dedication and training, and this was hard for me to pursue in conjunction with creating and exhibiting my artwork since I wanted to focus on creating my work more.

Of course, it was very helpful to understand American culture by talking with students.

MM: You are now making a series of “crowns” that effectively double as jewelry! So, what gave you the idea for this project?

HJK: Everybody likes to wear a crown, don’t you think? The biggest functions of jewelry are showing social status and decorating people to look nicer. Crowns are primarily associated with status, and I want to convey this symbolic meaning through the crowns. I thought a crown would be an appropriate item to show the precious value of a human being. And, it seemed fun!

Reactions, ArtExpo, and the future

MM: What kinds of reactions have you gotten from people who view your art and, out of all your exhibitions, have any been especially memorable?

HJK: Many people like to have fun while they are trying on crowns. Some people spend hours to try on every single crown to take good selfies. There were some memorable moments, and I especially thought these three were very meaningful: A homeless person tried on crowns and was happy with how he looked. One mentally retarded boy tried on the crown, and I saw him and his parents smiling. A two-star general wore Martin Luther King Jr.

’s crown “I have a dream” instead of his hat with the full uniform.

MM: You displayed your crowns at ArtExpo 2018 in NYC, so was that a good experience overall?

HJK: Actually, more people stopped by for my “Love” panel works than for the crowns at ArtExpo 2018. Since “Love” panels show the languages of two nations/cultures that are not on friendly terms, combined with Braille, many people expressed their agreement with my hope of “Unity.” Of course, some people asked me if they could try on my crowns voluntarily as well! Overall, ArtExpo 2018 in NYC was a great experience – a huge event! Great exposure!

Good networking!

MM: What is some of your big goals for your future art career and is there anything more that you would like to discuss?

HJK: I started to make crowns for socially influential people crown such as Martin Luther King Jr., and I’d like to make more crowns with this theme to remind people of our gains through them. Another goal is to show my work at more site-specific places that fit with my work concept, human value, and humanity. The last one is, of course, I’d like to have more collectors!

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