Art Compared to Art

Art has always been apart of my lifestyle. It’s what keeps me sane during times of confusion, a quick remedy for any emotional conflicts I face. That being said, to fully appreciate what art has to offer –whether that means inside museums or outside on walls –seemed at times a daunting task. I like to tell myself that I lucidly see the meaning behind each and every painting, that I “connect” with the layers of emotion each artist gushes out, that I see words between the brush strokes… (but that would be a lie).

Instead, I have created a collection of designs inspired by some of my favorite paintings. This may be the simplest yet realist way I can payback art for all the inspiration it has given me over the years.

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The Kiss by Gustav Klimt

I don’t think anyone knows how to use gold paint better than Klimt.

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Guernica by Pablo Picasso

As I like to play around with monotonous colors, this painting had to be apart of this! Not only does it represent the historical background with the tragedy that war brings but it also connects to other emotional ties that Picasso touches upon. Truly a classic.

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The Fall of the Rebel Angels by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Renaissance artist Pieter knows how to layer his shades of brown (and title his artwork impressively).

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Bal Du Moulin De La Galette by Pierre August Renoir

I wouldn’t mind dancing at the Moulin De La Galette with Renoir or seeing his artwork in the Musée d’Orsay (which I got a glimpse of during my visit this summer!)

While this post provides more insight towards my personal connections with art rather than humanities in general, I believe it was a necessary acknowledgement that had to be made.

More of my artwork can be found on instagram: thecontemporaryhistorian

C’est La Vie

I went to France for two weeks. And during my time, my eyes were able to finally get the cultural cleanse that they longed for. While my three years of french language skills went down the trash, I was learning in every single possible spectrum: the people I immersed myself with were living, breathing symbols of authenticity. Even the food I yet was able to teach me more than American textbooks. I felt refreshed to be in an environment that felt more cozy than my origin in California. I felt at home.

When travelling to cities like Paris, it is almost inevitable to appreciate the walls that engulf you as you try to squeeze through the rather claustrophobic streets. Art, however, is no longer defined or limited to architectural designs or paintings in museums; it is seen in flower shops, in lamp posts, and even in windows.

I have decided to recreate a couple of my favorite sceneries into designs of my own.

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Street in Paris.

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Taken on a boat. 

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Palace of Versailles duh!

Loving Your Roots

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Self-love: We’ve all heard it.

“Love your body! Work your style. Discover your individuality.”

And this is by all means is true and all means important. But I’ve always found self-love’s real definition to be a little more deep in my roots –I’m talking about my origins. While my nationality is full Korean, there seems to have been little substance behind this classification. Living there for only two years and having no trace of memories behind it besides eating a lot of black noodles, saying “I am Korean” was an understatement. Yet I never felt enough “American” to confidently state I was someone from California.

Through all of this, I’ve pushed away the asian culture I should have yearned to be apart of. And the media did too. Whether it was through the filtered lenses showcased by favored films, music, or other similar platforms, asians gravitated away from the limelight. While this may be an exaggeration, let’s face it: a white-washed community has been promoted in one form or another. Perhaps this lack of exposure towards embracing asian influence hindered my curiosity in Korean heritage.

No, I was not necessarily embarrassed to be Korean but I had no real urge to take in pride for being one. It was not until recently I have rediscovered the beauty Korea has to offer. As I observe more and more Koreans making a name for themselves, whether that is through protest or through other outlets, I have developed a strong sense of admiration. The way we exhibit ourselves in both sophistication and boisterous forms of character (not simultaneously of course), the way we emphasize respect religiously, and the way we view society are all aspects of being Korean I long forgotten. Yet absorbing and retracing these steps into my consciousness has enabled me to define what self-love really is all about.

So while I take into consideration to love my body and accept my style, I remember to cling onto my origin close at heart. It is a part of me, a part of all of us, that embodies who we are.

I’ve seen balloons, have you?

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The crowd retire with an oath

The dust in streets goes down,

And clerks in counting-rooms observe,

“‘T was only a balloon.”

-Emily Dickinson 

While introduced to the works of Emily Dickinson at an early age, I never solidified any appreciation for her words when given the chance to. It was not until very recently, when asked what the meaning of confidence was, did I abruptly recollect a mental image of a red balloon gravitating towards the sky. The gilded creature tripping, getting torn, tumbling in the sea [ “You’ve Seen Balloons Set, Haven’t You?”] . . . we admire the gilded creature because we flounder at his valor; we scorn the gilded creature because we can’t recreate that valor.

When asked to point to what exemplifies confidence, it is only natural to glance towards the one who is willing to hold the balloon in a room amongst hundreds of clerks. To learn to be comfortable with floating is a skill we envy simply because we lack it.

Observing balloons fly away is much easier, of course. You’re not the one experiencing the change in altitude, or the one in risk for a tree branch to end your existence, or the one constantly grasping for stability. But you’re also the one remaining on concrete, putting your feet parallel to heights limited by man-made creations. We like walls and doors and other forms of structural closure. It gives us a sign of safety.

But we forget that those are closed walls and locked doors. And maybe, in order to be the balloon we all envy, we have to learn to step outside. And when you do, and when I do, we can finally view the world with ease and confidence.

The Chaos Within

You guessed it –the jumbled lines that seemed to have no origin or end symbolize the infinite loops of emotions that proliferate throughout the artist’s day. The hands drawn in embody her attempt to reach out and grasp onto whatever life is left in her. The mixture of monochromic colors elucidate the various moods that come and go; the blobs of black basically scream desperation. So much meaning. So emblematic.

Or

The artist just felt like drawing that. In a world that is enriched with a vast amount of profundity, we are taught to always find the “deeper” meaning behind everything and practically anything. Failing to do so causes panic: we feel like the odd one out (especially when everyone else observing Michelangelo’s painting in the museum nod in some sort of universal agreement). In the midst of burying our heads into possible meanings in works of literature, sculptures, themes our critical vision is blurred, blinded by the process of overthinking.

Even Freud, noted for his stretched and abstract views dealing with psychoanalysis, said sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes a drawing is just a drawing. Whether it may be a string of stubbornness that we cling onto or a permanent mark ingrained into our minds, our thoughts entice towards complexity.

And is complexity necessarily good? Maybe. But it is equally, if not more important, to define all motions and experiences as not clusters of intricacy or scattered pieces of mental puzzles. As a person who overthinks practically every single day, this process of viewing things in “simpler terms” seems at best idealistic. To tell an overthinker not to overthink is like telling a person underwater to just breathe. While this advice may be physically impossible, it is essential to take a step back and see the bigger picture.

And sometimes that picture doesn’t mean anything extraordinary (like the one above). We must relearn our foundations and tell ourselves that that’s okay. Life doesn’t have to be labelled as hectic or frenzied. It’s simple, really.

Great Gatsby: Old Sport

Exposing what happens between the champagne drinks and lavish after-parties, Fitzgerald presents the raw side of America during the so-called Roaring 20’s. It is clear what he thinks of the “American Dream”; his criticism leaks. But before solidifying the fact that this was an era of careless behavior and ignorance, we must first acknowledge that there was something satisfying and admiring about the 1920s: the way the young presented themselves, the lifestyle that could be achieved through arduous work, the ideology that hope was within anyone’s reach.

Because some fish out of the large and rather polluted pool were able to achieve a state of comfortable luxury, this established an invisible threshold to the rest of society, a dangling line that people hopelessly hoped to grasp onto. No one attempts to swing on this string of close opulence better than Myrtle Wilson; she is even willing to get her nose broken! From the wardrobe changes to drinking alongside top-tier individuals like Tom, she craves for wealthier fate, disillusioned from the criminality behind it.

The Great Gatsby would be incomplete if it was only Myrtle who possessed green hunger. Every character at one point expresses a rush of satisfaction and smugness when colliding with the rich; some voices are even full of money. But what is arguably sadder is that ultimately the American Dream does not function as a cause-and-effect. It is not a one-way street where hard work leads to prosperity. Gatsby, a man who has parties bombarded by all sorts of people, is left dead with no one –without Daisy to say the least. When we gain tangible pleasures, we are not exchanging cash but the intangible receipts of human affection, relationships, and genuine moments.

It should also be mentioned what parallelism is found between Gatsby and Fitzgerald. From rising to the peak of prosperity to slipping down the slope of social supremacy, Gatsby and Fitzgerald share more commonality than not. Then, is The Great Gatsby a love story, a tragedy, or a tragic love story?

A masterpiece

I like to draw what I call “architectural masterpieces.” (Left: Brown University / Right: Oxford University and a street in Cambridge.) They are, in retrospect, the perfect embodiment of where both mathematical aspects and artistic approaches meet to create something extraordinary. It elucidates a fine line between geometric expression and abstract thinking. I mean just picture it, absorb those intricate designs each coordinated and aligned symmetrically in order to not only provide a functional use as a building, but also to satisfy a viewer’s sight at any time of day. I really think that if there has been any marks that the people in the past have engraved, it is these monumental structures that leave a lasting legacy. It is the foundational footprint that does not need any languages or words at all to soak in, only an open mind and willingness to appreciate what surrounds you.

This may be the main reason as to why I’m in love with cities, even ones I’ve never been to. Being exposed to a diverse range of cultures from an early age, I have a constant yearning to travel, explore, and soak in different countries. Time seems to stop when traveling. In a fast-moving era polluted with intangible waste, it is sometimes almost necessary to disconnect. I always believed that culture could best be felt by physically being there. No matter how great tapestries feel, how soothing Parisian music sounds, or how mouth-watering Cachaça tastes, it only represents a scintilla of India, France, and Brazil.

It is these architectural masterpieces that help us appreciate different regions of the word better. They are there to remind us of mankind’s achievements from the past and encourage us to continue to do so in the future. The images drawn do not do justice to what they incapsulate both externally and internally –it is only a mere replica transferred with pen and paper. I may not be very convincing, but you will know it when you are there, standing in front of these buildings; you will realize the beauty that these architects portray.

#Women

for-herI had always labelled myself as a feminist –nothing more and nothing less. Time to time, there seemed to be a misunderstanding amongst society members on what feminism actually meant and what feminists actually wanted. I had published art regarding women’s rights movements and equality, yet kept it all under public eyes. It was not particularly sensitivity that prohibited this factor, but more so the fear of disharmony or disagreements. This hindered my growth in embracing these strong opinions I held. However, after being exposed to the recent amount of boldness, bravery, courage, and passion felt in the marches around the world to represent women, I realized how important it was to bring awareness.

The fact that women and men still march to promote feminism is bizarre to me. Why, in the 21st century for crying out loud, is there still a need to prove that women deserve the same rights as men? Have we not exhibited enough evidence, work, and sweat to showcase our ability? Is there really any reason that a pay gap of 21 cents is existent right up to this day? Or any validity in the fact that girls are taught to avoid rape when boys are taught to not rape? And must we really be taxed for biologically being women?

It is absurd. It is absurd that we have to fight for rights that should have already been established from the genesis of human nature. Being apart of a generation that communicates digitally, I too want to utilize my platform as a way to bring more awareness. In the midst of chaos that continues to dominate the modern world with social, political, and economic issues, it is glide past the true dominant case for women. As a millennium baby, I hope to be apart of the positive change for women that surrounds my community. And I hope that my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren read about these moments with reassurance as they know that the fight has already been won.

 

Alive

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A dull journalist standing amongst dull workers in a dull office with dull work to do. 

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A frantic stroll to work.

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The epitome of what it means to be alive. 

A fine layer of dust was evidently existent upon my copy of the novel Walden by Henry David Thoreau. It laid in the corner on top of my drawer inside my closet, with clothes piled near it. My father gave me this book a year ago, insisting it was a “Must-read!” and it contained “sagacious advice.” Yet, I was too naïve –too busy– to open and start reading. It just did not seem worthy of my time.

However, I recently had the fortunate opportunity to blow the dust away from my copy and bring the novel to school as we were studying Thoreau’s work in English class. In fact, I was able to discover one of the most impactful quotes I have ever come across: “To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face? We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep.”

I like to visualize myself as the woman on the hill. I like to tell myself that I’m awake, that I’m alive, that I’m fulfilled. I like to think that what I do each day is genuinely meaningful, that it will lead towards something bigger. But maybe I’ve been to busy pretending to think these thoughts in order to keep myself sane. I brainwash myself on a daily basis so I don’t have to face the simple truth: I am busy but I am not awake.

We all are too busy. We all curse that we have an undersupply of time but an oversupply of tasks to do. We feel “good” about ourselves when we check every single item on our to-do list, but forget about the invisible, unconscious to-do task: figuring out what we are actually passionate about. We applaud at other’s accomplishments and feel especially envious when they achieves goals that relate to what they want to do with their lives. We insensibly think, “Why can’t I be like that? Why can’t I achieve that?” We are ignorant in allowing such emotions take over us, which pulls us into a deep slump where we draw the line between what to do and what we want to do. Let other’s success be not a discouragement, but a reminder to take a step back and think am I doing what I like to be doing? Or am I busily but sleepily living in a loop, allowing decades to slip by?

I’m tired of hibernating. Resting for so long as enabled me to forget how to move, to walk, to take a step into my own dreams and goals and desires. As Thoreau advises us to be awake, I advise you to get up and stretch. Look beyond the mechanical aids that guides us on how to live. Aren’t you exhausted from sleeping too?