Theater & art


Joo Lee Kang, wielding ballpoint pen on paper

Joo Lee Kang.
Joo Lee Kang.

Age: 30

Hometown: Seoul. She came to Boston to get her MFA at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Tufts University, graduating in 2011.

Reminds us of: Kang displays the keen naturalist’s attention of John James Audubon and the decorative élan of William Morris, as she turns a lens on the results of 21st-century assaults on the natural world.


What caught our eye: In an exhibition at Gallery NAGA last year, Kang’s works were deceptively seductive: ornately patterned wallpaper with a lush Victorian aura; baroque hand-drawn swags and wreaths. Paper sculptures bloomed off the wall. Only when you looked closely did you notice something was horribly awry: The pigs had six legs. The turtles had two heads. Don’t even ask about the frogs.

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Biggest thrill: “The NAGA show. That kind of show means I can stay and work in the US. A lot of international art students go back after graduation because there’s no full-time job as a professional artist. For the O-1 visa — that’s for sports stars, movie stars, and artists — we have to prove we’re a working artist in the US.”

Biggest surprise: “I’m always back and forth between Korea and Boston, and I always meet people who know each other. The art world is a small world.”

Inspired by: “William Kentridge — his drawings have no boundaries. Pencil, ballpoint, paper installation, video. And Julie Heffernan’s paintings.”

Studio ritual: “I prefer to draw on the floor. For small drawings, it’s fine to use a desk. But I see the drawing as my meditation process. I sit down on the floor, the paper has to be flat, and I draw things one by one.”


What people should know: “The animals in my work are real. I don’t make them up. I find images in scientific magazines or on websites. . . . I want to show what is actually happening in our natural world.”

Now, and coming up: Kang was awarded honorable mention in Danforth Art Museum’s “Off the Wall” annual juried exhibition, up through Aug. 4. In September, her work will be featured in the group show “Pedigree,” curated by Liz Devlin, at the New Art Center. The Museum School awarded her a 2013 Traveling Fellowship; she’s spending the summer in Germany and South Korea. In Seoul, Kang is organizing a show spotlighting Museum School alumni and students, “Forget Me Not,” at the Spahn Gallery, Dwight School, Aug. 1-23.

Links: www.jooleekang.blogspot