Today we’d like to introduce you to Min Baek.
Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I grew up in a family where we talked a lot at the dinner table, and each person had their own unique interests. We went on a trip often, which let me see so many wonderful things around the world. Growing up in such an environment gave me many great opportunities and interactions, which had a tremendous visual impact on me. Drawing and painting were something natural to me as far back as I can remember. Looking back, I am actually surprised at how determined I was as a kid to become a painter one day, even without knowing what it really meant to be one. I was going through old scraps from my elementary schoolwork and found a rolling paper from my friends calling me a painter. That still feels really special to me.
I lived a short time in France and attended preschool there, which I think encouraged my interest in art because we did many creative activities, like singing and drawing. It gave me a sense of confidence too because kids used to gather around and watch me draw, and teachers would complement my drawings. I think that’s how I made friends there. Drawing was already serving as a form of communication to me then, which I think still affects me today, as art is something that can’t be described verbally. After my family came back to Korea, I continued drawing butterflies, birds, trees, friends, and underwater scenes, and my mom suggested that I go to an art middle school. I did, and I had some nice experiences there. The education I had was focused on traditional training, which is mainly oriented to teach people to create works in a designated time. In hopes of having more freedom in my art, I attended art school in Boston, and I moved to Chicago later to attend SAIC.
Now, I have a painting studio up and running in Garfield Park. I try to be there during the natural light hours and get back home before nighttime. I love the big windows, grey painted floor, and high ceilings. During my time there, I hope to create as many works and learn the language of paints.
Please tell us about your art.
I didn’t quite understand how our belief systems work and how we navigate the idea of binaries. They make sense in theory, but I always greatly doubted human experience and judgment. That’s how I came to develop this current painting practice based on the idea that seeing does not realize the nature of being or reality. I like to construct my abstractions based on which elements or effects may be indexical or emblematic and which are not, and how a range of juxtaposition creates a tension between knowing and not knowing. Recently, I have worked in a range of materials in an attempt to achieve contradicting yet subtle physicality.
Speaking of my love for painting, I gave up on painting for some time during my first year in college because I was overwhelmed by a massive number of contemporary art languages. I wandered around performance, art and technology, and installation art for some time, and I realized that whatever medium I am using, my works begin where I feel foreign to what used to be so familiar. In other words, I realized that things are complex and multifaceted and that I will always be bound to not fully understand what I am seeing. After I articulated this feeling, I returned to painting, trying to making something that could embody such experiences or at least help me acknowledge my ignorance through the act of painting. I avoid saying it sounds like a ritual practice, and it isn’t, but I have to admit that creating art helps me balance the extremes, sort of like Yin and Yang. It makes me shameless and shameful at the same time.
Given everything that is going on in the world today, do you think the role of artists has changed? How do local, national or international events and issues affect your art?
I think the major thing that has changed is that artists have gained more power to talk about their personal experiences. While art was always there, it was to serve certain purposes, such as religion or craft, which involved some restrictions. Today, it is not necessarily associated with such values. Instead, it involves a larger scale, more capitals, and a smaller world.
I personally don’t believe in the role of artists. In the first place, I hate to think anything has a role, and I think it is only a trick to articulate the nature of art-making. Sincerity is the only key. If anything, I would call art-making a record, rather than an expression, which although it doesn’t directly address current issues, still manages to reveal clues about them. Instead of thinking about how I contribute to society, I think how current times appear in my works. I avoid having my work tied up to specific global/political/social issues, because this not only limits what works can say, I feel uncomfortable to address such issues when I can’t even figure out who I am. Someone might call it an identity. I just keep trying to make it be, and sound, more personal. More spiritual and rigorous, perhaps. I simply believe that the more personal art becomes, the more universal it is because we are all human beings at our core. It’s not so different from how you make friends. You share your stories deep inside your heart, and then somehow your friends share their stories, too. You have to be genuine in your voice.
How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
I currently don’t have plans for the upcoming show. Ask me for a studio visit to see my works and share ideas! Also, I regularly update my website so check it out.
- Address: 319 N Albany Ave Studio 3 SE, Chicago, Illinois 60612
- Website: min-baek.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @strugglingartstudent