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journey to the cosmic womb JooYoung Choi’s ‘Big Time Dreaming in the Age of Uncertainty’ is positively fun

ISSUE Magazine April 2019

Story package by Andy Coughlan


journey to the cosmic womb 4 • ISSUE April 2019

Volume 25, No. 7

JooYoung Choi’s ‘Big Time Dreaming in the Age of Uncertainty’ is positively fun “Like a Bolt Out of the Blue, Faith Steps in and Sees You Through” by JooYoung Choi.

JOOYOUNG CHOI’S EXHIBITION “BIG Time Dreaming in the Age of Uncertainty,” on display at the Art Museum of Southeast Texas through June 2, is an absolute delight. Choi’s playful imagery, featuring giant fabric creatures in mystical landscapes, comic book-style panels and video installation is first and foremost great fun. Viewers are sure to

Story by Andy Coughlan

leave with smiles on their faces, no matter what their age. But behind the fun, Choi is addressing some deep emotional issues of loss and belonging. That she addresses these issues with an overwhelming sense of positivity is what makes the show so charming. The Cosmic World’s motto is, “Have faith for you have always been loved.”

Choi was born in South Korea and moved to Concord, New Hampshire, in 1983 after being adopted. She says she used her imagination to fill in the gaps of self-knowledge, such as where she came from and what it meant to Asian. As an adult, she reconnected with

See COSMIC on page 11


April 2019 ISSUE • 11

Volume 25, No. 7

COSMIC from page 4 her birth mother and created a paracosm she calls the “Cosmic Womb.” As if evidenced in her work, Choi has created a detailed world, governed by Queen Kiok with the help of characters such as Catain Spacia Tanno, Plan-Genda, Pleasure Vision, six humanoid creatures called Tuplets, and one artist named C.S. Watson, who just happens to be an earthling from Concord, New Hampshire. At the opening reception March 22, Choi arrived dressed as Queen Kiok. As she gave her gallery talk, or rather as she told the story of the Cosmic Womb, the audience quickly engaged in the sense of play as we were bombarded by brightly colored imagery that begs for a childlike sense of play. Choi said she came up with the name for her world after reading “The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child” by Nancy Verrier. The book talks about the pain a child goes through in the womb when the mother is going to give her child up for adoption. “I thought, if we have a primal wound, then we should have a cosmic womb where we can go and grow and heal and become the people we are supposed to be,” she said. “As I continued to develop this idea, I realized that everyone, not just adoptees, deserved to

have a second place of growing and healing.” After starting her career as a painter, Choi said she found there were some characters that needed a different space, so she stated making puppets and building soft sculptures. From there, she has branched out into video as well, often playing multiple parts along with animation. Choi said that Jim Henson and the Muppets were a big influence on her work, as well as Walt Disney. One would not be surprised if Pee Wee’s Playhouse was not on her radar as well. She personified the celestial architect as Tourmeline. She takes the planets, created by little creatures who gather up “ghosts of pain” and feed them to the turtle, Yool, who eats them and creates the planets that Tourmeline puts in the sky. In Native American mythology, the Earth is built on a turtle’s back, and Choi’s work clearly draws on different cultural myths. The Cosmic World is a positive place, but all good stories need a villain, Choi said. “Your hero is only as great as horrible as your villain can become,” she said. “I thought, what is the meanest thing a villain can do? So I created this dictator. Her name is Lady Madness. She lives on Volcano Island, and they never know when it’s going to erupt.” Lady Madness has a factory that makes “whine” out of tears, created by torturing snow people and making them blush, called blush whine. Another creature, Pound Cake Man, used to be bad but is now good. Choi said that she hears about people who wanted to “save face,” which is part of why some people gave children up for adoption. Choi said these are false faces, so Pound Cake Man travels the universe punching and eating them, and the faces appear on his skin. When he decided he wanted to be a gymnast, to be good, Pound Cake Man gave the faces the option of leaving, but most decided they wanted to stay with him. Now they travel around the paracosm to where there is conflict, and one of the faces will speak the language and translate for peace — they are a United Nations of faces, Choi laughed. Choi said she encourages everyone to practice “big time dreaming,” that we all have the right to dream what we wish

for, for ourselves and others. This exhibition is only a part of Choi’s huge cosmic story. Visitors get to be a part of it, or to create their own story. JooYoung Choi is part of the noble tradition of storytelling, traveling the Earth, with her cast of characters, spreading joy, fun and a little self love.

JooYoung Choi dressed as Queen Kiok talks about her work during the opening reception of her exhibition, “Big Time Dreaming in the Age of Uncertainty,” March 22. Her painting “Journey to the Cosmic Womb,” below left, is part of the exhibition at AMSET.

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Journey to the Cosmic Womb  

A review of Jooyoung Choi's exhibition, "Big Time Dreaming in the Age of Uncertainty," at the Art Museum of Southeast Texas. The story was p...

Journey to the Cosmic Womb  

A review of Jooyoung Choi's exhibition, "Big Time Dreaming in the Age of Uncertainty," at the Art Museum of Southeast Texas. The story was p...

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