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Yeesookyung Creates Masterpieces Out of What Other Artists Throw Away
Friday, January 21, 2022


The Japanese have long sought to find beauty in nature’s imperfections.

The philosophy, known as “wabi sabi,” dovetails with Buddhists’ thinking of the impermanence of suffering of human existence. And the concept found its way into art, eschewing the more Westernized concept of artificial beauty and perfection that is in reality unattainable.

The Sun Valley Museum of Art has launched a new visual arts exhibition devoted to the concept of Wabi Sabi. The exhibition, which runs through March 26, features artwork by four artists with different cultural traditions.

Among the artists is Yeesookyung, a South Korean artist who sifts through discarded trash from other ceramic masters and glues together fragments of their broken pots to create bubbly misshapen vases that may stand four feet tall. The fissures are glazed with 24-carat gold leaf, drawing attention to the repair job with conspicuous lines of gold lacquer showing where one pot shard meets the next.

Yeesookyung called these “translated vases.” Her work repairing and reimagining new objects out of damaged or broken ones celebrates the idea of renewal.

“She has created hundreds of these, and she is well respected in major collections around the world,” said the exhibition’s curator Kristin Poole, also at the artistic director of SVMoA. “It’s fascinating to see the work reborn from these broken pieces.”

Indeed, “wabi” translates to “incomplete” or “imperfect” and refers to the beauty found in asymmetric forms. “Sabi” describes the enhancements of aging, irregularity and the impermanence of all things.

Like Yeesookyung, each of the artists in the exhibition makes objects that celebrate natural, unrefined and imperfect forms, said Poole.

  • Shiro Tsujimura evidences a respect for nature and purity of material in his ceramic work, while bringing an innovative approach to ceramics in a country where cultural practices are rigorously prescribed.

    Tsujimura’s ceramics in the exhibition are part of a collection of teabowls assembled by parttime Ketchum resident Henry Whiting, who owns the Frank Lloyd Wright Studio in Bliss.

    The tea tradition was introduced to Japan from Buddhists monks who came from China in 1100. The teabowls demonstrate the potter’s skill, with even the way the bowl touches the mouth making a statement.

    Included in the exhibit is one of the wooden boxes that the tea bowls are sold in.

  • Mark Newport transforms ripped, torn and worn pieces of cloth with enhanced stitches that leads to new patterns and a reconsideration of original form. He sometimes refers to his threads as “scars,” defying the temptation to blend the repair to hid the tear. Instead, he accentuates the “wound.”

    A blue corduroy shirt in this exhibition, for instance, looks as if it was nearly torn from the bottom to the collar. Under Newport’s skillful hand, brown stitches cut a wide swatch across the shirt creating the loose-knit image of a celery root if you allow your imagination to run wild.

  • Frances Trombly’s hand-woven textiles feature color only sparingly. Presented as sculptures, the fabrics drape and flow around simple wooden structures, some of which suggest painting’s armature. One in the exhibition flows across the floor.

Mistakes are left evident, emphasizing the relationship between maker and form.

Poole, who was a ceramics artist herself at the beginning of her career, came up with the idea for the exhibition based on her love of ceramics and her investigation into the Japanese tea ceremony.

“I love the physicality of these pieces. And this affirms for me the value of looking through the lens of others,” she said. “There’s so much to be learned by the idea of wabi sabi as a philosophy that embraces notion of impermanence and the beauty of our fragility. The Western idea, by contrast, is so fixated on striving for perfection—an idea that goes back to the Greeks.”

A free art talk on the Japanese Teabowl Tradition featuring teabowl collector Henry Whiting and gallery owner Shoko Aono that was originally scheduled for Jan. 20, has been rescheduled to 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 1, at The Community Library.

Other events related to this exhibition:

  • FREE EVENING EXHIBITION TOURS Thursday, Jan. 27, 4:30 & 5:30 p.m.
  • FREE FAMILY PROGRAM: Afternoon Art Friday, Feb. 4, 2:30 & 3:30 p.m.
  • FREE EVENING EXHIBITION TOURS Thursday, Feb. 10, 4:30 & 5:30 p.m.
  • FREE FAMILY PROGRAM: Afternoon Art Friday, Feb. 11, 2:30 & 3:30 p.m.
  • FREE FAMILY PROGRAM: Afternoon Art Friday, Feb. 18, 2:30 & 3:30 p.m.
  • FREE GALLERY WALK Wednesday, Feb. 18, 5–7 p.m.
  • CREATIVE JUMP-IN: Clothes Mending with Jeanna Wiggers Saturday, Feb. 26, 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
  • FREE ART TALK: On the Japanese Teabowl Tradition with Henry Whiting and Shoko Aono Tuesday, March 1, 6 p.m.
  • FREE EVENING EXHIBITION TOURS Thursday, March 10, 4:30 & 5:30 p.m.
  • FREE GALLERY WALK Wednesday, March 11, 5-7 p.m.
  • CRAFT SERIES WORKSHOP: Beautiful Mended Rings with Lisa Horton Saturday, March 26, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

 Walk-in visitors may see Wabi Sabi between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily at the museum at 191 Fifth Street East in Ketchum. The gallery also offers free private tours available in English and Spanish. To schedule a tour, call 208-726-9491.

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