Museum exhibition features works of multimedia artist Jiha Moon in ‘Double Welcome, Most Everyone’s Mad Here’

Published: January 26, 2017
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Multimedia artist Jiha Moon blends Eastern and Western cultural elements in an exhibition of her work at Auburn's Jule Collins Smith Museum through April 30 in the Bill L. Harbert Gallery and Gallery C.

Moon's creative day begins with an artist's observation of our world from the time she wakes until the time she sleeps—with roles as instructor, wife and mother providing inspiration in the spaces between.

"I am constantly juggling," Moon said. "I split time between my painting and ceramic work. As I have to go to a community ceramic studio, I spend a lot of time driving back and forth, but I try to work at night after my family goes to bed and weekends when I have some time alone in my studio."

Her solo exhibition, "Double Welcome, Most Everyone's Mad Here," is the result of this fine balance—with over 50 works in what Moon described as the biggest exhibition of her life.

"It is my mini-retrospective as entering mid-career as an artist," Moon said. "The title is inspired by Alice's Adventure in Wonderland quote from Cheshire Cat. I feel that it captures the metaphor well to represent our current world—or perhaps the way I see the world that we live in."

That world for Moon is one that is guided by what she called the bigger force. "For some people, it is religion; some people it is nature—anything that they believe is beyond their control." Moon said she often questions what that guidance could be. "For me, the Cheshire Cat represents that. It doesn't give me the total answers on how to live our life."

Born and raised in Daegu, Korea, Moon lives and works in Atlanta. She received her Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa in Iowa City, and her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Korea University in Seoul, Korea. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Asia Society, New York; the High Museum of Art in Atlanta; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia; and the Hunter Museum of Art in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions at museums nationwide, including the Mint Museum of Art in Charlotte, North Carolina; the Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art in Nashville, Tennessee; and the Weatherspoon Museum of Art, Greensboro, North Carolina.

While Moon described herself as first a painter, she said she adopted other elements in her work, sometimes using traditional materials and those some people may not have viewed as high art. "In my work, I have lots of embroidery patches or quilt elements that are historically categorized as minority work or women's work," Moon said. "I grew up in Korea watching my grandma making things all the time—for house goods and decoration around the house, so I feel like those things influence me more than traditional material or just as important as traditional material."

Her family's influence extends into her adult life. "Some of the things I look at are Twitter logo and Angry Birds—things I find from my son's video games or on TV or Internet. Then I try to combine and change and twist it, so my work is a lot about misunderstanding and representing different things in a very camouflaged way. Things that you recognize are not necessarily what you thought."

Moon said her ceramic works dated back more than five years and that compared to her painting, she felt she was still learning, finding fascination in the work of others.

"For me, painting is really traditional material and things that have more historical power. So in the museum, you look at the painting, it's on the wall—it is the most classical way to appreciate the art form." With ceramics, she said she is drawn to the object. "People use them in the kitchen and in the living room, and they are deeply engaged with everyday life. I am interested in the conversations that go back and forth between these two [mediums]—very different things but at the same time, I think they are related, too. My approach to my ceramics work is from a painter's perspective. I'm interested in making forms as drawings and painting on the surface and how that is related to the object's world."

Moon said that the exhibition has had a tremendous response from diverse audiences, explaining that different generations will respond to the work because of their background and the history of their lives. Her hope is that visitors will spend time with her work and come back several times since some of the cultural references may be missed at first glance.

"The first time, you don't get to see what's going on or you get overwhelmed or you didn't get it," she said. "Every time you go see, you sort of have a different experience."

The experience of touring her work is one that Moon describes as amazing, citing the chance to travel to new places in the United States and interact with all kinds of people and see the work in different environments. The exhibition was previously installed at Kalamazoo Institute of Contemporary Art in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and will travel to the Peeler Art Center, DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, after the exhibition run at Auburn.

"It gives me tremendous opportunity to communicate with people through gallery and artist talks," she said. "I often forget about viewers in my studio, but as an artist it is necessary to do that sometimes. However, I realize again how important the artwork is to be translated and discussed among people when it reflects our world around us. Of course, that is my main interest."

Moon will have the opportunity to discuss her work with museum participants, as she has two programs planned at Auburn that are open to the public. She will speak at the museum's public opening reception Jan. 27 at 6 p.m. and at a Feb. 9 screening of "Cloud Atlas" as a part of the FILM@JCSM series organized by the museum and the College of Liberal Arts.

"Jiha Moon: Double Welcome, Most Everyone's Mad Here" is organized by the Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke, Virginia, in collaboration with the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, College of Charleston School of the Arts in Charleston, South Carolina. The exhibition is curated by Amy G. Moorefield, deputy director of exhibitions and collections at the Taubman Museum of Art and Mark Sloan, director and chief curator of the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art. The exhibition at Auburn's art museum has been made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. Moon's opening reception lecture and the FILM@JCSM series are both co-sponsored by the Alabama Humanities Foundation, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Other exhibitions on view include the 1072 Society Exhibition, featuring contemporary ceramics, and "Audubon Inspirations: Prints by Jane E. Goldman," plus selections from the museum's permanent collections. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with extended hours on Thursday until 8 p.m., and Sundays 1 to 4 p.m. On Thursdays, the Museum Café is open from 5 to 8 p.m. with live music. Admission to the museum is free; a five-dollar donation is appreciated. For more information, visit www.jcsm.auburn.edu or call 334-844-1484.

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