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The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Visiting professor Sun You receives prestigious contemporary visual art award

Visiting+professor+Sun+You+drew+inspiration+from+domestic+labor+for+the+process+of+creating+her+polymer+clay+sculptures.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Sun+You%29
Visiting professor Sun You drew inspiration from domestic labor for the process of creating her polymer clay sculptures. (Photo courtesy of Sun You)

When people think of art, the box that it is shipped in doesn’t usually come to mind. Visiting professor of art Sun You is changing that with her award-winning pieces that center on the idea of caretaking through careful transportation.

You is one of three recipients of the AHL Foundation 2022 Contemporary Visual Art Award. The award provides recognition and a monetary prize to Korean contemporary artists in the United States.

“I found this core of Korean and Korean Americans working in New York that was really close to my heart. So there is like a sense of community,” You said. “I was very excited to be recognized by this community that I’m very proud of.”

You described her art as multifaceted.

“I do lots of interdisciplinary art-making, meaning that I do drawing, I do painting, I make sculptures, I make installations,” she said. “These are coming out of my personal interest, such as interplay between fine arts and craft, fine arts with domestic labor, fine arts with play.”

For the Contemporary Visual Art Award Winners Exhibition, she created a piece that drew upon her interdisciplinary methodology. During the creative process, she carefully transferred baked polymer clay sculptures from her kitchen to her studio.

“I’ve been very interested in this craft material and play material. Also to me, it has a reference to baking, which is another domestic labor,” You said. “I mold the polymer clay with my hands and use [a] rolling pin to flatten them out and bake on a big sheet in my kitchen oven. Once that’s done, I pack them in the cardboard box and bring them into my studio and that’s where I make floor installations or wall pieces. I was always drawn to the idea of this packing from home to my studio.”

You explained how she packs as many pieces as possible in one box, and is extra careful that they don’t break in transit.

“I felt like that’s a form of caretaking that needs to be celebrated,” she said.

The box, and other packing vessels, are incorporated into the art pieces.

The exhibit opened on Oct. 8 and ran until Oct. 26 at the AHL Foundation in New York City. Some of You’s Painting 1 students made the journey to support her at the exhibit’s opening.

“I think one of the reasons why that happened was because the environment of Lafayette it’s a small enough class that I already feel like I know my students. I hope that one of the reasons why they came out is because they were excited and they also wanted to support their professor. I thought that was very sweet,” she said.

You believes that The AHL Foundation’s work is essential, as Asian Americans are underrepresented in the national art community.

“There are lots of Koreans and Korean Americans working in the United States and yet the art world is trying and it’s getting better, but it’s not as diverse as what we hope for,” she said. “I am happy and proud and also humbled by the experience of working with the commercial galleries in New York and LA, but I must say I’m the only Asian American artist that they show.”

Throughout her teaching career, You has noticed a disconnect between the number of Asian American art students and the number of Asian American artists being displayed in galleries around the country.

“Over 60% of the incoming students [at New York institutions] are Asian and Asian American. Given there’s so many students studying arts, after school it’s really difficult to have any sort of platform in the main art world,” she said. “I think any support needs to be celebrated. I am so glad that there are institutions and organizations that specifically support these underrepresented artists.”

You provides a space for these artists to show their work at Tiger Strikes Asteroid, a nonprofit art collective that she co-runs and that has exhibition spaces in five cities.

“I like the idea of creating a platform for other artists who are underrepresented or deserve to have an opportunity,” she said. “And this is a great way to cultivate community.”

To view more of You’s work, visit sunyou.us.

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About the Contributor
Isabella Gaglione, Culture Editor
Isabella Gaglione (she/her) is a junior English and Film & Media Studies double major from Long Island, New York. The Lafayette's resident Taylor Swift Reporter. 

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