JooYoung Choi

The work of JooYoung Choi involves such varied media as painting, animation, puppetry and soft sculpture in the realization of her singular paracosm, the Cosmic Womb.  With a mythos inspired by Choi’s own biography, this fantastical world serves as a well of narrative inspiration from which she continuously draws and in which the radical empathy of an adolescent imagination is not something to outgrow but rather something to cultivate.  

Choi’s work often depicts the creatures that populate the Cosmic Womb engaged in acts of selfless heroism and derring-do, surrogates for an earthlier kind of benevolence she hopes to propagate.  Fabric collage and refrigerator magnets are bestowed equal prominence as the acrylic on her canvases in a flattening of aesthetic hierarchy, and both this materiality and narrative structure are reflected in her sculpture and video work, featured with similar significance throughout her oeuvre.  An adroit handmaking is brought to bear upon every object the artist wills into existence.  

Adopted as an infant from Korea by an American family, Choi knows well the subtleties of a life lived between worlds.  While completing her BFA at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design she traveled to Korea in the hopes of reuniting with her birth-family, and the impact of this experience had no more profound an effect than on the metanarrative in which her work resides—that vast expanse of personal universe finds its mirror image in the Cosmic Womb.

Space is at a premium in her installations, which team with felt flowers and alien allies.  The customized television sets on which she presents video work are adorned with fabric extensions of the screen and messages of self-love.  One canvas is even turned up at the corner to reveal additional characters on the back interacting with those on the front; two dimensions are hardly enough for Choi and the inhabitants of her otherworld.  

Choi’s work references a variety of artists and imagemakers who are similarly known for complex world building.  The 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is foundational for the artist as a breakthrough in animation technology in which the acts of play and make-believe are paradoxically treated as a matter of life and death.  Ten years earlier The Wiz turned mass media’s depiction of the classical fairy tale on its head in an all-black, star-studded filmic reimagining of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, crucial to Choi as a woman of color for its ability to make room for fantasy in the American racial discourse.  And she counts surrealist painters like Victor Brauner and Leonora Carrington among those in the art-historical tradition from whose pavement she blazes her own cosmic trail.  

For most viewers JooYoung Choi’s Cosmic Womb is a foreign land, indeed, even for the artist herself it may continue to reveal uncharted territory.  The world of fantasy is a boundless mecca, one that richly rewards its most intrepid explorers.  Choi’s appetite for exploration is insatiable, and the farther she travels, the more travel-weary viewers might find in her work their own kind of imaginary home.  Written by Christopher R. Scott.

JooYoung Choi, born in Seoul, South Korea, immigrated to Concord, New Hampshire in 1982 by way of adoption. While completing her BFA at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, she returned to South Korea and reunited with her birth-family. Since receiving her MFA from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Choi’s artwork has been exhibited in such venues as The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Project Row Houses, The Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, Seattle, Washington, The National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago, Illinois, The Art Museum of South East Texas, Beaumont, and Lawndale Art Center, Houston, Texas. Choi has received grants from Artadia and Idea Fund. She has also participated in the Lawndale Artist Residency in Houston, TX and the Harvester Artist Residency in Wichita, KS.

Choi’s work has been featured by numerous media groups and publications, including the PBS Digital Studios Art Assignment, Korean Global News Network YTN, the LA Times, New American Paintings, Arts+Culture Magazine, the Houston Chronicle, Glasstire, Houston’s PaperCity, Nat. Brut, and the Huffington Post.