Firstly congratulations Debbie - what does it mean for you to have been chosen as the winner?
I'm honoured to receive this award, and it feels like a great affirmation on the path I've chosen in life. Finding meaning in what we do and defining who we are, are two of life's most critical questions.
I thought that I was giving up everything in order to do the one thing my heart so desired; but if you press on with faith, openness and persistence, things eventually come to you in bigger ways than you'd ever expected.
Talk us through your winning artwork, Seated Three Graces.
I first came to Korea six years ago and felt intensely for what was happening in this part of the world. Being Korean-American, I grew-up accustomed to juggling two cultures in the States, but seeing the clashes of tradition and westernization in Asia today was something else.
"Seated Three Graces" challenges the standardized Eurocentric canon of beauty by photographing bodies of actual, present-day Asian women and combining them with prototypical western classical heads. A painstakingly meticulous digital rendering process has been applied to generate the marble-like skin texture of each figure, thereby intensifying its illusive power. The dissonance between the head and the body is to provoke critical issues from art history, social values, interracial relations, and contemporary social challenges.
What chords do you think it struck with the judges, who voted it the winner?
I heard that all of the five jurors gave the highest points to my work. I think that they penetrated the context of my work, that through the metaphorical theme of beauty, it was addressing greater social issues and questioning notions of identity, perception, and culturalization. They may also have found my form original, as I've spent outrageous amounts of time experimenting with new ways of expressing these ideas and develping proper methodologies for them.
What will you do with the $25,000 prize?
It will lift financial concerns off my shoulders and allow me to delve into my work for a while. Most of my sculpture projects require technical assistance and I still owe the technicians payments from last year's projects.
What projects are you currently working on?
I'm working on two photo series and two sculpture series, most of which have been developing in the last five years. There's a ceramic sculpture series titled "Terms of Beauty" where I reconstruct the face of the well-known beauty icon of Venus de Milo into ethnically and racially diverse facial features and sculpt them in ancient Asian ceramic type. I work in diverse genres and materials because I'm interested in exploring their possibilites, to see if I can still come up with fresh ways of expressing my ideas.
If you could have chosen a winner, other than yourself, which artwork would you have selected and why?
When I first saw the images of the finalists' works, I was drawn to one work in particular, "Homonculus," and thought that if my work makes it to the final round with few others, it would be up against this one. It shows a good concept and meticulous craftmenship. I heard later that it was the first runner up.