She and Ocean

Responding experience of living in vintage traditional Korean Hanok in Ecole de Ami Residency. “Homeland Earth Mother, She and Ocean, Ripples, Female Gaze, Peal Ocean and Peal Woman” was born in the Studio of Ami Art Museum, located in the rice farmland Dangjin Korea.

Sleeping in Anbang room where woman of the house slept with children in the past century, cooking in a red earth floored kitchen, I found myself winding blue thread on the structure of the wooden Hanok door frame, rubbing splashing, staining with Dangjin red earth on Korean paper. The burnt marks and wrinkles are part of the mark making devices with stitching, mending and appliqued fabrics.

In and out of the Anbang room day after day, holding the rusted doorknob on worn wooden frame, as if feeling the warmth of women’s hand who had lived in this room in the past, I thought of them. They could have been our grandmother and mother’s generation of women. With whom I shared life under less privileged circumstances in Korea. Remembering their hard work of domestic responsibilities, joy of bearing child, raising children, nurturing and caring family, hand sewing family garments and linen, mending all family worn outfit, hand washing laundry outdoors and drying on clothesline, making food from scratch without freezer or oven, no matter how the weather holds. Remembering childhood of my curious mind making holes with wet finger on rice paper on the wooden structure of the door and being scolded by them. Also I was recalled with the time when my art career was on hold while I became a full-time mother raising children in the suburbs of Kansas USA and felt like being trapped and isolated by only looking out through the window to see the art world.

I washed accumulated dirt from salvaged room doors of vintage rundown Hanok in Dangjin. Brushed with soap and water dry them clean. Ocean was made by winding thread around the door structures, for them to in vision the open space of the ocean, a freedom space to travel to other places for a vocation. Using the materials that are familiar to the vintage women for “She and Ocean” means of communication with their familiar language, as they were illiterate women.

Ke-Sook Lee
October 17, 2015