January 9, 2015
Insanely happy. Not only was I able to successfully navigate the Seoul subway system so I could see art at both the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art and Seoul Museum of Art, but I also made a lifelong friend. I walked into a tiny crowded restaurant near the Deoksugong Palace, entering immediately after the sweet lady in this photograph. The waitress mistakenly thought we were together and seated us at a small table. I made my body small and with my knees pointing away & started the drawing I had been working on all day. Out of the corner of my vision, I could see her interest. We had both ordered gimbap (Korean sushi) and when it arrived she began to ask me questions in halting English about my sketchbook, my nationality.
Although I was shy at first I quickly warmed up… she gave me incredible feedback on my sketchbook and went so far as to write her comments in English and Korean on two empty pages. She began: “I feel now about your drawing”.
All the while I was wondering whether this would be a friendly encounter that would live in the moment but, lacking an exchange of names, would become a moment of the past without tendrils projecting forward. So I was so gleeful when she signed “Good Luck, Shim Bu Seop”. She is a 62 year old who looks 40 years old. Her smile is sweet and benevolent. She is a sculpture and when we parted we exchanged hugs and she said “We become good friends” and invited me to her studio, an hour and a half away. We will write to each other and I promised I would send her photos of American sculpture. Moments like these between kindred spirits, which spring from coincidence and friendliness, are moments which make my soul shine. Now I’m eating donuts and drinking hot bubble green tea at Dunkin’ Donuts, revisiting fond childhood memories. Thank you world for believing in my art. Thank you for new friends.
A view from the mountain-top, onto the church’s main building.
“Holy” water. Got to admit it is super refreshing, straight out of a rock.
Church goers intoning in the prayer hall, in front of a larger-than-life portrait of “True Parents”
My sad face as I audio-record the church member’s song and am forced to participate in their rituals.
Breakfast at the shrine: milk and bread with anku, red bean paste.
A holy tree and a sacred marble monument.
This is how I felt most of the time, during my journalistic residency at the church’s shrine.
I ate my feelings pretty often.
Pilgrims climb to the top of the mountain every morning at 4 am, and throughout the day, to pay their respects to the spirits, their ancestors, and pray.
My academic thesis advisor insisted the architecture at the shrine was overwhelmingly brutalist. Not being familiar with the movement, I wasn’t so sure.
A churchmember setting up for some lecture.
The dining hall at the shrine.
Gold embossed wedding bands for “blessed” churchmembers.
“True” Parents- their faces decorated many surfaces for sale in the shrine’s little mini-mart.
Lunch again at the shrine.
Macha latte foam art.
Doing what I went there to do: make art, make rubbings.
What a view.
Third floor of the main building. It was around Christmas time.
Some of the sleeping quarters- churchmembers were rationed 2-3 sleeping bags each.
Bathroom selfie, what can I say?
Posing in front of a key sculpture at the church’s shrine.
Acting like a tourist in front of one of the spiritual nodes at the church I was studying.
A grueling walk up the mountainside.
Bibimbap in Seoul city center, probably at a jijimbang.
God awful shaved ice at a sauna.
Red clay sleeping quarters.
Shared sleeping quarters at a jijimbang.
Check in at a jijimbang.
A street food vendor selling fish cakes simmered in broth and little crispy fish shaped pancakes full of red bean paste or viscous vanilla cream.
Public sculpture lining the walkways in Seoul.
Fugu, or blowfish, a potentially dangerous delicacy.
My airbnb host in Seorae.
In front of the towel room in a jijimbang.
Kitschy art at the Seorae Art Center.
Giant grab Valet Parking!
This looks insanely naughty but it’s actually an artistic representation of silkworms.
A luminescent silkworm bridge near Montmartre Park.
In winter, little wrappings of straw or hay keep the trees from becoming brittle and freezing.
Ancient technology in the Seoul National Library. I’ve used something similar at Harvard’s research center in Italy- I’m pretty sure it is meant to read slides or tiny photos?
Gorgeous paper screens.
An image of North Korean woman in film or propaganda.
Illegal snaps of N.Korean newspapers.
N.Korean reading at the Seoul National Library.
Illegal snaps of N.Korean political graphic novels.
I go out for oxtail soup with my lovely hosts and friends Demian Ben Lee and Jinyoung.
A queer shop selling poop shaped sugary treats. A real thriller for the locals.
We stop by Demian’s favourite tea place and get macha lattes. We muse philosophically about the insides of the cups.
I followed Demian around everywhere. He was an incredible host and a great new friend. Sharp, funny, and extremely insightful.
There was an underground exhibit featuring one of the Korean emperors of old and we posed in front of this facade.
Delicious soft tofu with green onion and flavorful soy sauce and chili.
This is a place where you can buy platters of raw meat and fry it yourself at the table. Yum.
We stopped for drinks at a coffee shop inside a mall (the subway was below) while waiting for one of Jinyoung’s younger sisters.
Fake food display.
A street food vendor.
Making silly faces in front of a fried chicken eatery.
Gorgeous strawberry poundcake display.
Amazing cat graffiti in front of a cat cafe, where you pay around $10 for a drink in the company of many cats.
There were many little shops in one alley that sold freshly prepared food and displayed them like this. These might be fake?
A food vendor selling fish cake stuffed with cheese and other fillings, as well as fried chicken on a stick.
A woodcarver’s toolset.
A gorgeous theatrical mask handcarved and displayed in the artisan’s shop.
A huge guardian at a famous shrine’s entry way, carved of wood.
A smiling stone Buddha.
A painted wooden panel inlaid along a temple’s exterior wall. There were many more, depicting various scenes of a story.
An interactive film installation in one of Seoul’s contemporary art museums. This show featured digital installations and sculptures.
A piece by Nam June Paik.
A tarnished metal mask in the walls of the subway.
Dunkin’ Donuts. I have such fond memories of eating these when I was living with my family in Seoul when I was 6.
awkward selfie at the temple demonstration
Some artwork in a roadside gallery.
deep fried heartily crunchy sweet cakes. Sometimes filled with gelatinous noodles and ground beef. Oozed deliciousness
A whole miniature chicken with gingko, ginger, and stuffed with rice. Heaven.
With my zodiac
patbingsu, the stuff of my dreams. Shaved ice, ice cream, nuts galore
Demian! Prince of Korea.
wishes hanging from the ceiling, from the shrine’s donors
artwork in progress
selfie reflected from the support bar in the subway