The exhibit Once Upon a Modern Time has travelled across Canada, but this past week artist Jihee Min brought it to the Prairies for the first time, with Estevan being the initial stop.
The thought-provoking Modern Time exhibit has been featured not only in Montreal, but also Sarnia, Halifax and Kelowna before arriving in the Energy City.
Min, who is now headquartered in Toronto, moved from South Korea to Montreal with her parents when she was 12 years old. She said she never really felt at home in Montreal, nor did she feel an affinity to South Korea when she returned to explore her roots. She explained to her audience attending the official opening of her three-pronged exhibit at the Estevan Art Gallery and Museum on July 12 that English was the third language she learned with Korean and French being first and second.
Dressed in black fishnet stockings and a striking red dress with a long mane of dark (wigged) hair morphed into a lengthy scarf trail that flowed onto the floor of the EAGM main gallery, Min explained during this semi-performance display that the starkness of the exhibit was to raise awareness of what many people might not recognize as a problem, but one that she easily recognized as an Asian woman.
“Once we know the problem, then we can set out to correct it,” she said.
Min explained earlier that her fun-filled origami (paper folding to make different figures) sculpturing challenges for those in the audience who cared to try it, was deliberate so that her message wouldn't come across as being overly harsh.
“The origami makes it fun,” she said.
A couple of video presentations, produced by and featuring Min, explored her attempts at trying to “fit in.”
Min earned a master of fine arts degree from Concordia University in Montreal and she had earlier completed her bachelor of fine arts degree at the University of Toronto.
“My art is my effort to be heard because I'm really a pretty shy person,” she said, noting that by taking this route, she's able to come out of her shell and make the statement regarding the objectiveness and stereotypical views that North Americans usually have about Asian women.
“Being Asian in a Canadian society, that's my message. I didn't feel at home in Canada, nor did I feel at home in South Korea, so I seek a solution to my problem, I become a character in a public place.”
Min said often the mass media encourages the stereotypes of the Asian woman and makes the general public believe that it is true that these women are most often “sexually available” and that we get that image from various forms of advertising and many of these were found on the paper that was being used by the audience members as they crafted their origami flowers.
“The Asian woman in tights, that's the approach, and I'm exaggerating this stereotype with this long flowing thick black hair,” she said with a smile.
The floral display, done in pink, is again used to exaggerate.
“I believe society is doing better compared with years ago, but there is still lots of evidence of this stereotype of Asian females and it's seen in all kinds of ways, including advertising. I hope that you, as viewer and participant, will find your own answers to the problem,” she told her audience as she spoke from a podium where she was seated with her long mane of hair flowing out toward the crowd.
Min said her Once Upon A Modern Time is not booked past the Estevan exhibit dates which will end at the end of this month, but she hoped that another Prairie gallery would express interest since she enjoyed her first experience in this province, especially the two days it took to install the feature at the EAGM.
The Min exhibit was given a good start with the opening on July 12 that was coupled with the official launch of a more conventional visual art display curated by the Organization of Saskatchewan Arts Councils in the community gallery entitled Plants and Machines featuring the curated work of 20 Saskatchewan artists.