For the past 30 years, Korean American artist Yun Suknam has been working to become a key pioneer figure in Korean feminist art. Since the early 1980’s, Suknam has been seen to be active in a number of feminist cultural activities in order to gain more equality between men and women in Korean society. Within many of her paintings, Suknam is renowned for her focus on maternal instinct and strength. Throughout each piece, the facial expressions of women all range differently from each other in order to show the unique qualities of femininity.
Because of her gained fame, this 80 year old artist will now be featured in the Smithsonian Museum series Portrait of the World: Korea. Her piece, Mother III will be featured in the first exhibition to focus on the South Korea-based artist’s work in a U.S. museum. The entire portrait is assembled in wood in order to reinterpret and pay homage to traditional Korean materials and decorative motifs.
To honor the artist, the Smithsonian Gallery purposely coincides with the 25th anniversary of Yun’s groundbreaking solo exhibition The Eyes of Mother, which was presented in Seoul in 1993. Suknam’s The Eyes of Mother became groundbreaking as it sought to shed light on the shared experiences between women in Korean society. Throughout her exhibit, not only did Suknam create the first painting to challenge Confucian ideals of womanhood that have been utilized and ingrained within Korean society, but she also critiqued society’s limitations that had been placed on women. Thus, in many ways her latest piece, Mother III draws from her first, with modern adjustments made.
In an interview with the Smithsonian, curator Robyn Asleson stated that “Yun creates artworks that reinterpret themes such as ‘motherhood’ by breaking down gender assumptions and embracing female strength and resilience. We think visitors will be fascinated to discover not only Yun’s contributions to the Korean feminist movement over the past 30 years, but also how this particular work relates to feminism’s impact on the art of portraiture in the United States. The exhibition features Mother III in dialogue with portraits of other feminist artists whose art contributes to a shared thread of conversation across the globe.”
After the press preview on December 13th, 2018, Portraits of the World: Korea officially opened for the public eye. This astonishing exhibit can now be viewed until November 17th, 2019.
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