Week 14 Artist Interview- Yireh Elaine Kwak

Diana Franco's untitled piece dealing with the relationship between nature and civilization
Diana Franco’s untitled piece dealing with the relationship between nature and civilization

I found the 14th Thursday of Art 110 at the student art galleries to be a weird one, for all of the galleries, with the exception of the Max L. Gatov Galleries, were closed. What was interesting, however, was that the gallery displayed a group exhibition entitled “Liminal,” which constituted the work of senior artists receiving their BFA in painting and drawing, and after observing the art and names of the artists, I noticed that some of these artists had held art exhibitions at these galleries earlier in the semester. Some artists that I recognized were Diana Franco, Maryann Gonzalez, and Yireh Elaine Kwak, yet the only artist present in the gallery was Yireh, who shared the same gallery back in February with her friend Maryann and entitled their art exhibition “Harmony and Discordance,” which I really liked since I love nature and the meaning behind their exhibition title. The artist has maintained her love for nature as it is the star of her art and just like last time, she was polite enough to answer my curiosities about her art.

I have wondered to myself when and why was it that Yireh decided to focus her art on nature, and after having read her artist statement, I learned that nature surrounded the artist’s house as a child and that when she moved from that house, the nature that was depicted in her art represented her home. I found that really awesome, and her art displayed inside the gallery entitled “Home,” (featured image) depicts a beautiful natural scene from her backyard which she first sketched and painted from observation and then finished the painting from memory inside her art studio.

Maryann Gonzalez's untitled piece dealing with the decay of nature and society
Maryann Gonzalez’s untitled piece dealing with the decay of nature and society

If I am not mistaken, her art depicts her home when she used to live in Fullerton; the artist currently lives at a house with no yard or much nature, which is a shame for nature-lovers such as the artist and myself, haha. While speaking with the artist, I got to learn the techniques that she employs in creating her art; such techniques include using oil paints and applying strokes of rough oil pastels to the painting once the oil paint has dried. The artist is influenced by the styles of artists such as Van Gogh.

What I found funny was that after noticing and mentioning to the artist the Korean letters next to her name on the paper of the list of artists’ work, Yireh admitted that she did not write that but that her friends did since she has become Americanized, haha. Yireh was born in the United States but can speak Korean fluently; she would go to Korea if she was brave enough, she says, because the Korean people would probably not consider her one of them since she was born in the United States and has a certain accent when she speaks their language- I know her struggle! Yireh has always been creative and artistic, ever since she was a child, and just like the other artists whom Yireh shared the gallery with, she will be receiving her BFA in drawing and painting. What I really admire is that the artist holds the belief that an artist should paint not for money, but to be an artist, or in other words, paint for art’s sake, and that getting money for their art should be the bonus. I think that only truly passionate artists can say that and actually stick to it; it is indeed something bold to do. Yireh seems like a kind person and it was nice meeting her and observing her art full of life for a second time at the art galleries. May the artist be blessed with plenty of success and happiness always.

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