Mison Kim was just 19 when she came to Fayetteville from Seoul, South Korea. She graduated from 71st High School and has since embarked on a successful artistic career. Her work is currently on exhibit at Methodist University’s David McCune International Art Gallery at the William F. Bethune Center for Visual Arts through, April 15.
Although Kim was always drawn to art and enjoyed creating, it was one of her teachers at 71st High School that changed the course of Kim’s life. Janet Parks recognized Kim’s talent and saw the potential for a successful art career in her. Parks took Kim under her wing and helped her navigate the application process to get into art school.
Parks fondly remembers teaching Kim. “In 1986, Mison Kim entered my 12th grade art class. She had recently arrived with her family from Seoul, Korea. From the start it was abundantly clear that she possessed extremely strong artistic abilities,” stated Parks, former art teacher and member of the McCune Gallery Advisory Board. Parks designed an advanced art program for exceptionally talented art students seeking careers in the arts. Kim excelled in the program.
“We have stayed in touch over the years. I’m delighted that she has returned to North Carolina to show her most recent work at the David McCune International Art Gallery at Methodist University,” said Parks.
Kim is quick to acknowledge Parks influence on her life. “She helped me apply to schools and programs. Luckily, I got in to Pratt institute in New York with a full scholarship,” said Kim “I got several other awards, too, but it all happened because she noticed that I had talent and she knew about all these different programs. She guided me and that is how I started. If she was not there I would not be here. She really led me and guided me in every way.”
Clearly, the support and encouragement Kim received in high school made a difference for her. In addition to exhibiting her art, Kim works in the fashion industry providing illustrations and designs to clients that include Tory Burch, Talbots, The Gap and many others. She also provides illustrations, renderings and displays and environments for clients such as Scholastic Books, Toys R Us Times Square and FAO Schwarz.
The exhibit at Methodist University is titled Searching for the Real, and features drawings and paintings by Kim. “I named this show Searching for the Real because when I draw, I consider before I put each mark on the page and they add up. But when I do this for many years and over many drawings, I am always trying to search for what is real,” said Kim. “All the experiences a person has combine together. Our meaning and understanding is made up of fragments that happen through our life. If I put these together, I think this is what is real. I think they will see my work as part of their experience and realize that they are part of something bigger. If they find their own place, they can find their real. I am always searching for truth — for what is real to me in what is around me.”
For Kim, her art is not so much about the end product as it is about the process. The more she works at her trade as an artist and the more developed she becomes, the more apparent it is to her that what she is doing is about more than brush strokes on a canvas or the mark of a pen on paper. “Everyone has their own philosophy based on their own experiences and based on what they know,” said Kim. “Whatever it is that just feels that is right to you — that is what your life is about. That is what I am trying to do as an artist and a person. I don’t think I will find an answer. It is about the journey.”
As she travels this path, many artists influence her work and inspire Kim but she still seeks to be true to her own voice and vision, her own real, as she creates. One philosophy holds true for her throughout her work, though. “When the show opened at the McCune Gallery, I mentioned Matisse several times. He said that when you make a mark on blank paper or canvas, you actually cause a problem,” said Kim. “And the artist solves that problem. When I put a line or mark on the paper, I think, oh, this is a problem. Now I have to do more, put another line or mark to work with it. I end up doing more and more and more till it comes to some image that holds together and solves the problem. Then, it is done.”
Kim also appreciates the way Matisse views his own work because he said he doesn’t paint things. He paints the difference between things. “I try to translate it to my work. I don’t paint things either — I paint abstracts: the relationship between things.”
Searching for the Real will hang until April 15. Gallery hours are Tuesday–Friday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Saturday, 12 p.m. – 4 p.m., closed Sunday, Monday, and school breaks. The David McCune International Art Gallery is located on the Methodist University campus in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Contact gallery director Silvana Foti for more information at 910.630.7000 or visit davidmccunegallery.org.
Photo middle right: Mison Kim poses with one of her works. Bottom left: From fashion to books to gallery art, Mison Kim shares her passion for life thorugh colors and patterns.