Art, Life, and Peanut Butter

Korea is just starting to come out of hibernation as the temperatures slowly rise above freezing during the day but I’m not quite ready for it to be spring yet.  Spring means yellow dust and that summer’s uncomfortable humidity is right around the corner.  I’d rather Ilsan still looked like this:

This was taken at the beginning of a snowstorm in late January.  This square is normally filled with in-line skaters, couples sharing ice creams from the McDonald’s across the street, shoppers from the two outdoor malls that border its sides, and people and pets on their way to Lake Park.  The day I took this all sounds were muffled and in this photo you can only see one lone person walking across the square.

I was on my way to my subway station (Jeongbalsan for anyone reading that is familiar with the Seoul Metro) to ride to Itaewon to meet up with some friends to tour the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, which I was really impressed by.  It sits atop a hill and has two main wings, referred to as Museum 1 and Museum 2.  Museum 1 is five floors of pottery, carvings, jewelry, paintings, and statuary largely from the Shilla Dynasty.  You get to each floor using a winding staircase made of white stone with slits in the walls so you can see people walking down each level.  It reminded me a little of the Guggenheim, though on a smaller scale.  Walking back into the gallery space was very dramatic–the walls suddenly became black and the only light was shone down onto each individual piece of art.  For some of the larger pieces, there were lights angled up from the bottom to create silhouettes on the walls.  It was a fantastic lighting concept.

Museum 2 is primarily modern art, which I understand is an incredibly broad term, but there was everything in this wing from Frank Lloyd Wright paintings to neon to political to Dada.  Maybe modern isn’t even the proper term but let me be clear–none of this was water colors of people in hanbok.

The third gallery was for temporary exhibitions and mostly occupied by an auditory installation called “What You See is What You Hear” by a Christian Marclay.  There were these large black box-like rooms with huge projection screens.  One was minute-long clips from films in a multitude of languages and in each clip, the time was mentioned or a clock/watch was shown.  The times shown were synced with the time that it actually was so I assume it was a 24 hour loop though we were only able to stay about half an hour.  The second room was different clips of music being played and they synced up into this strange sort of jazz sequence.

Outside of the museum were other installations, including these huge metal spiders that looked particularly striking in the snow.

I don’t have any immediate plans for more “touristy things” as I like to call them but I imagine that once spring hits with it’s full pollen-laden force, I’ll be popping some antihistamines and back to seeing the sights regularly.

My friend from Richmond, Holly, came to Korea yesterday to begin her teaching position with ECC, which is the same company I work for.  She’ll be about 5 hours away in the southern beach city Busan, but we have been talking about going on our 6 day summer vacation together in July.  It’s peak tourist season anywhere that it would be reasonable for us to go given the amount of time we have so we’re just having to roll with slightly higher airfare and full hotels.

We’ve more or less narrowed it down to Thailand, Vietnam or Bali and I’m leaning towards Bali because I’d like to spend a more significant amount of time (like several months) exploring Southeast Asia.  I know you’re thinking “Oh, how Eat, Pray, Love of you, Alexa” but I have never read that book and have absolutely no plans to pick it up.

My interest in traveling to Bali was actually piqued when I was in elementary school and one of my neighbors who I thought was wonderfully hip in her big sweaters and long brown hair became engaged.  Her husband-to-be was wealthy and was taking her to Bali for their honeymoon, where he had bought her her own cottage.  I remember my stepmother telling me this about my neighbor Ann and asking where Bali was.  I had never even heard of it and it was one of the first times that I remember trying to conceptualize how big the earth is, that there were places I wasn’t even aware existed.  At 23 that still happens to me and I’m in constant wonder of the vastness of humanity.

girls in my youngest class. taken by Tom, age 5

Right now though, the humans that occupy most of my time are anything but vast.  In fact, they’re downright teensy.  About once a month I’ve begun bringing in my camera for my five year olds to take pictures of themselves with and the results have been amazing.  I crouch a lot or sit in their little chairs to be on their level throughout the day but this is a different way of gaining their perspective.  One thing I’ve noticed is that since they lack the social understanding of personal space, they get right up in each others’ faces instead of using zoom.  This makes the way the photos are framed really interesting and appealing to me because what ends up in the shot is much less intentional.

Today I taught Bonnie, one of the twins, how to use the timer and she took a phenomenal self portrait:

To me, this image is everything lovable about Bonnie and that smile makes me want to smile!  Her sister, Erica, is also quite a ham when put in front of a lens.  I took this one with her sitting on my lap and she cocked her head to the side just at the last minute. 

This Thursday marks my 6 month anniversary in Korea and just as I thought the ungodly craving I was having for peanut butter was passing, I found it in the grocery store.  I nabbed it off the shelf, paid, and only when I got home to smear some on imitation Ritz crackers did I realize how American the moment I was having was:


2 thoughts on “Art, Life, and Peanut Butter

  1. No! Pick up Eat, Pray, Love! Really! The movie tainted the story so much, and the criticisms I’ve heard about the book are so silly. I love Elizabeth Gilbert’s writing and really enjoyed the book a lot.

    Also, I brought back peanut butter after spending Christmas at home. I hate how the French do breakfasts; I’d much prefer some oatmeal and toast with peanut butter and bananas.

    • Sunday I went to the English bookstore and right there on the featured used titles was a copy of Eat, Pray, Love for W5,000 so I bought it. I trust your judgment–will let you know how my reading is going in a few days!

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