Walking into the De Pree Art Gallery, one could feel as though they are entering a sensory playground at a Children’s Museum. Eyes are immediately focused on the architectural sculpture at the center of the current gallery exhibit, fashioned from steel, colored glass, mirrored spheres, piles of powder, and yarn balls. Light warps the eye, maximizes color, and forms an aura of otherness about the piece; a gateway to an alternate dimension, in the middle of Hope College.
This is what some have experienced as they went to view “Ecstasy on the Surface” an exhibit of art by Hope College’s 2019 Borgeson artist-in-residence Leekyung Kang. Kang spent twelve weeks of the summer on campus, perfecting her solo exhibit and creating new artistic works. The artist-in-residence program was formed by Hope Alumni Nancy and Clarke Borgeson and was hosted by the departments of Art and Art History. The program ended last Friday, with a lecture by Kang and a reception at the gallery. “For many of the installation pieces, when you can see the reflection of yourself and of the actual object, then you can understand that I tried to ‘put in some area’ that you don’t usually see; the area that we tend to forget is always there,” explains Kang. “And for the two-dimensional work and the video work, it’s kind of a relation between dealing with the imagery and dealing with the concept of a copy versus originality. With copies and printmaking, you can always make more than one. But with the paintings, it’s always a singular painting. That is a sort of contradictory idea, and it’s something you can use to enjoy my work.”
Kang contemplated a variety of subtle yet significant concepts as she went about her work. During her lecture, she discussed many of her past works, and the places and experiences that they were born from. She has had exhibitions, held workshops, and taken part in residency programs across the US as well as in Korea, China, and Qatar. All her experiences have culminated in an innate desire to appreciate and understand her world. Kang explains; “In terms of understanding the reality we’re dealing with, I’ve always had questions about ‘what is reality? What is the definition of reality that we can articulate? With visual and video, how am I going to visualize bringing my digital practices into the real place?’ I try to capture the surface of the digital world and the very semblance of digital interphase. That made me think, ‘I’m going to use printmaking, installations, paintings, almost every kind of different medium to create this two-dimensional and three-dimensional practice.’” Every piece in Kang’s exhibit is visually appealing and extremely articulate; when one steps closer for a better look, a burst of new details presents itself. Especially diverse and detailed are a set of ten “books”, origami-like sculptures of paper that lend a softer, traditional-esque aesthetic to the multimedia display. Kang expresses a mastery over so many artistic forms. It is a wonder that she created everything displayed in the gallery: including paintings, sculptures, videos, and sketches.
“I really thought it was interesting to hear about her creative process, and how she went about creating these two-dimensional and three-dimensional works. I really liked it!” Says Art Education Major Sarah Sanders (’21). Working as a gallery staff, she’s enjoyed the exhibit and watching visitors’ reactions to the Kang’s works. It can truly be a formative experience, if one is opens themselves to it. Kang would like students to “experience an immersive installation as a way of understanding contemporary art compared to certain other mediums. From the two-dimensional to the three-dimensional, and even the video form, you can understand different mediums and different perspectives.” Reality has long been something only to escape from- something to ignore as long as one can. Perhaps this is truest when one is a college student. Leaving the gallery, I realized how limited my view had been, and I was heartened by a sense of clarity and renewal. I perceived reality as a static concept, but Kang’s versatility opened up a new door, a new lens through which to view my life and the world around me. Reality is what we make of it, it’s an art we must simply learn how to define ourselves through.