Recently, Korean American artist Julia Chon made an interesting discovery about her family. Her great-aunt — her grandfather's sister — practiced shamanism. "She wasn't a mudang — the actual shaman — but she would consult them," Ms. Chon said. "She held that belief system."
In Korea, shamanism has existed long before Buddhism and Christianity. The shaman, or mudang, acts as a bridge between the spirit and earthly worlds. Often deceased ancestors, the spirits are equally likely to bring mishap as they are good fortune. A mudang is brought in to determine who the spirit is and to calm it. Through a ceremony called kut, they try to create peace and balance between the spirit and the affected.
Through her portraits, Ms. Chon strives to do the same. Of a stunning piece of a figure surrounded frightening-looking creatures, she writes:
SPIRIT DREAMS explores the interweaving of ancestry and diaspora, the past and the present, traditions and contemporary life. In the way that the mudang acts as a bridge between the spiritual and mundane so Ms. Chon's work connects generations across space and time.
The exhibition is on view Sept. 21, 2023 through Jan. 21, 2024.
About the Artist
Julia Chon, better known by her artist name Kimchi Juice, is a Washington DC-based artist and muralist. Chon’s work explores the relationship between cultural tradition and its effects on generational identity and the decisions Asian Americans make to form their identities. With a prominent Korean aesthetic in each piece, Chon merges her ancestry and traditions with the contemporary to convey the nuances of the Korean diaspora.
As Chon’s work makes its way from canvas to large-scale murals, these intimate portraits take center stage in an urban environment. Her murals can be found internationally and her work has been exhibited in solo and group shows in Washington DC, Los Angeles, CA and Miami, FL. Chon’s clients and collaborations include NASA, Apple, the Korean Cultural Center, and the Phillips Collection, among others. Chon was featured in the HBO docuseries “Take Out with Lisa Ling.”
(Visit this page for information on our last exhibition, JUST BETWEEN US: FROM THE ARCHIVES OF ARLAN HUANG, which closed on Sept. 10.)