– Art By Karen Ahn, 18, Connecticut –
Manhattan (on p. 2): I was inspired by the cultural and social diversity in New York City, and wanted to embody the inclusivity of the city.
Il Mio Anno in Italia: I wanted to convey that upon living in Italy for nine months, I genuinely feel that my culture has been influenced by Italy and the Italian language.
Fellow Living Beings: My painting depicts all fellow living beings of the earth floating around our planet like sparkling stars because they have reached enlightenment of living together in harmony and are celebrating this feat together. I believe that harmony is beautiful and powerful, and can lead to amazing things, and wanted to show this belief in my painting to inspire people.
Sorrow of Japan: When I heard about the Fukushima disaster in Japan, I realized that disparate nations came together to aid the Japanese in catastrophic times. I wanted to depict the disaster as not just a tragic event, but also an instance where humanity unified to save others.
Traditional Korean Garden: When I visited Korea a few years ago, I wanted to create a painting that blended all kinds of the unique, traditional gardens that I witnessed, with all plant life surrounding a surface of water in the shape of Korea. I hoped to portray future harmony through using the garden; perhaps, the two Koreas shall be peacefully reunited.
A fan of graphic novels such as Fun Home and cartoons such as “Calvin and Hobbes” since I was a child, I have been heavily influenced by cartooning and collage, which I have integrated into my own style of illustration. I also aim to incorporate narrative within my illustrations. In my studies in art history, I have been deeply inspired by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Umberto Boccioni’s later works, MC Escher, and Eduardo Paolozzi and am also pursuing independent research on queer Italian performance art after having spent a year abroad in Viterbo, Italy.
Our lives are saturated with visual stimulation, and overabundance typifies much of the developed world. Nonetheless, crises and conflicts in climate change, technology, religion, and overpopulation threaten imminent catastrophe for our world. My work is invested in portraying the often overwhelming, yet minute, stimuli of lives increasingly mediated by virtual reality and smartphone interfaces, contrasted by themes of unity and peace weaving through the work.
By Karen Ahn, 18, Korean American, Connecticut.
The Imperial Palace Garden
The Imperial Palace Garden
“The silence is not a mistake. ”
This past June I visited Tokyo to explore Japanese culture, history, and tradition. I purified my hands in the communal water at the Meiji Shrine, learned to wield a samurai sword, and traced Japan’s history to the Edo Period in the Edo-Tokyo Museum. It was my impromptu trip to the Imperial Palace Garden, however, that reigns supreme in my memory.
The Imperial Palace, formerly known as Edo Castle, was built in the first half of the seventeenth century in Chiyoda, Tokyo. There, at the heart of the world’s most populated city inhabited by more than 35 million people, lies the primary residence of the royal family of Japan. The palace grounds span 284 acres and is closed to the public except for the emperor’s birthday and January 2nd; Kitanomaru Park and East Garden are open year-round.
Entering Kitanomaru Park, I expected to find a regal garden lavished with manicured flowers and shrubs—a scene straight from Monet’s Water Lilies. But to my chagrin, the park was empty, modest, and lacked vegetation aside from trees arranged in a uniform fashion.
Upon first glance, the park was unremarkable; however, I soon learned that its beauty was not its grandeur, but rather the atmosphere it created. Confused and searching for picnics and frisbees, I discovered chains which prevented visitors from entering all grassy areas. The aroma of pretzels and popcorn did not fill the air and there was not a concession stand in sight; there were no chirping birds or buzzing bees—in fact, there was nothing.
With nowhere to sit, I knew I would not be reading or eating during my visit to Kitanomaru Park. Instead, I fell silent as I walked around. How could this land, considered more valuable than the state of California at the peak of Japan’s Bubble Economy of the 1980s, not be used to generate revenue? How could this land, surrounded by the gentrified Marunouchi district financial center, be silent and unoccupied?
Free of all distraction, I suddenly understood the power of The Imperial Palace Garden. Rather than entertainment or recreation—it offered me a unique insight into the mindset of the Japanese people. Despite my experiences with Japanese museums, ceremonies, and cuisine, I had not rid myself of the American prism through which I saw the world. The silence is not a mistake. The park’s purpose is not to host recreational activities, but to promote peacefulness and to honor the royal family. Unlike America’s obsession with the glitz and glam, I now understood that Japan prides itself on tranquility and respect.
To be sure, my realization did not result in resentment towards America. I gained consciousness of our human tendency to judge different cultures based on the values of our own. Although it may seem comforting to compare different countries with our own, this closed-mindedness in fact leads to the confusion I first experienced at the Imperial Palace. Furthermore, the inability to go beyond the confines of a single society ultimately prevents us from accepting other ways of life.
Recognizing this dangerous single-minded syndrome could be the solution to the plight itself. Only with an open-mind, curiosity, and willing acceptance can we widen our social scope. I look forward to my next trip, whether it be to the Taj Mahal in India or Machu Picchu in Peru, and the opportunity to embrace world cultures.
—Alison Hirsch, 17, New York.
All photos on pages taken by Alison Hirsh during her visit.
Your Nature Art
– By Betsy Jenifer, 17, Chennai, India –
2017 Haiku Art