How would you compare Daejeon, where you currently live, to your hometown?
Daejeon, a city of education, is similar to my hometown in Massachusetts, the hope of many renowned colleges such as MIT and Boston University. When I was studying at the Columbus Art & Design College on a scholarship, a Korean at the Korean Village introduced me to a college in Daejeon. Frankly, when I was first offered a teaching position in Daejeon, I thought it was ridiculous. Three days later, it occurred to me that what was ridiculous was for me to turn them down. I was destined to come to Korea. I came to Korea back in 2002 when it was still agog over the World Cup, so it has been quite a while.
I heard that you have been influenced by Andy Warhol and other artists. How would you describe your world of art?
Strictly speaking, the genre of my work would be ‘Neo-pop.’ I was directly and indirectly influenced, but Andy Warhol is a pop artist and Neo-pop began in the 1990s. Andy Warhol was already gone by then. You could say that I was influenced by pop artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, or Robert Rauschenberg, as I work with mundane and trivial things. But Neo-pop has no particular theme or boundary. Anything can be Neo-pop.
I saw your work on Hunminjeongeum and Cheomseongdae. It is difficult to find any connection between those two. What was your intention?
Just because two different subject matters appeared on one painting, they do not have to be connected. There is no need to relate them, either. When I saw Cheomseongdae and Hunminjeongeup for the first time, I thought they were beautiful so I captured them on my piece. It could have been the English alphabets. I love to mix whatever I want. Many people tend to ask the artists about the meaning or message of their work, but is it necessary? If the audience can feel anything from their work, I think that is enough.
I think you enjoy silk screen printing. Could you explain why? Do you use other techniques?
I also enjoy watercolor and pencil drawing, of course. I used to draw and paint as any other art student, but one day, I tried silk screen printmaking for the first time and I was wowed. It opened up a whole new world that I had not experienced before: the beauty of printed colors and shapes! I discovered tremendous beauty in pictures that were completed right at the moment when I took my hands off. It was also fascinating that the work changed according to the color and direction. A painting is done when you are down, but not with this. What makes silk screen incomparable is that it has endless possibilities to change.
What does it mean to live in Korea as a foreign artist?
I don’t think of myself as a foreign artist living in Korea. I married a Korean and my daughter is named ‘Jihye,’ which is a Korean name. I feel that half of my body is already Korean and the blood of Koreans runs through my body. In fact, my love for my life in Korea is growing over time. As I get accustomed to what the strange and familiar with my experience of more of those things, my identity as a Korean gets stronger.