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Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Mixed media artist Soojin Choi to visit UW

Choi’s sculptures often depict ‘in-between’ emotions, artist says
Image courtesy of UW–Madison Art

Korean-American mixed media artist Soojin Choi will be visiting the University of Wisconsin on Wednesday, Oct. 18 from 5:00 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. in the Conrad A. Elvehjem Building as part of the Fall 2023 Visiting Artist Colloquium.

Choi has put her name on the map as she continues to redefine the traditional and functionalist approaches of Korean ceramics. Her utilization of flat surfaces paired with visual representation of human emotion presents a complex array of feelings.

Having grown up in South Korea, Choi attended art school in the early 2000s, dreaming of becoming a painter. Following her brother to the U.S., it was only after an opportunity to study in the States in 2010 that her dislike for the methods of South Korean arts education became apparent. Korean art education focused on realism, which was at odds with her personal style, Choi said. Seeking to familiarize herself with a new education, she moved to America.


Choi attended Virginia Commonwealth University and earned a BFA in Craft/Material studies along with Painting/Printmaking studies in 2015.

An elective ceramics course at VCU which included free clay opened an opportunity for Choi to experiment creatively and less traditionally.

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Ceramics have only been in Choi’s quiver for the past decade.

“I was about to graduate undergrad and took a ceramics class as an elective, it was fun and had free clay, so I was like, ‘Okay,’” Choi said.

Ceramics entranced Choi, completely altering the trajectory of her artistic career. Finding comfort and pleasure in the new medium, she decided to pursue an MFA in ceramics from Alfred University in 2018.

Choi regarded her childhood as a conventional South Korean upbringing, despite finding a rebellious spirit in high school.

“I didn’t fit into Korean culture,” Choi said. “I really was not happy, so I had an aggressive attitude in high school, like a troublemaker.”

Choi’s sculptures display these hefty undertones of ambivalence and disarrangement through the use of dimensions and spatial surfaces. One sculpture, titled “You Can’t Take Back, 2022” expresses feelings of alienation from her native Korean culture which seep through its intricacies.

Leaving South Korea at a young age put her in an interesting place between adapting to different American cultural customs and keeping ties to South Korean ones, Choi said.

“In Korean, I feel like I am so childish,” Choi said. “And in English, of course, it’s not my language.”

Subtle facial expressions are apparent in the majority of Choi’s work. She also incorporates captivating use of textures which chip away at the complexity of human emotion. Choi said a straight face with gazing eyes can often prove more expressive than a wide smile or frown.

Choi’s feelings of isolation don’t stop at the language barrier. While adjusting to American culture, she also deals with splitting from her South Korean roots.

The artist reflected on her choice to follow her own path in life, which has separated her from many friends along the way.

“My friends are all married, having kids,” Choi said. “I feel kind of separated from them now.”

Having been in America for almost 14 years, Choi is yet to feel settled. Her artistic opportunities continue to take her to each corner of the U.S.

A series of residencies and fellowships have forced Choi to make frequent moves all over the country, uprooting her bond created with each city she lives in — from VCU in Richmond, Virginia to the hills of upstate New York. Choi then accepted a residency in Minneapolis with the Northern Clay Center, funded by the Anonymous Artist Studio Fellowship. From Minneapolis, she took a series of fellowships in both Red Lodge and Helena, Montana. Currently, she resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania working as a resident artist at The Clay Studio.

This is more moving than many Americans do in their lifetime. Making a move can induce incredible anxiety but the nomadic artist has learned to enjoy the new beginnings.

“I kind of like [moving] actually,” Choi said. “I bring my own decorations to my house and studio so wherever I go, I can feel something to be attached to.”

Choi cited Disney Pixar’s 2015 animated movie “Inside Out” as a major inspiration for her work, specifically her expression of the turmoil of human emotion. “Inside Out” follows the psychological development of an adolescent girl. The girl’s emotions are individually characterized as miniature people in the girl’s brain. These personified feelings conflict with each other, constantly bickering and acting solely as their set emotion. This influence is incredibly apparent as Choi’s works like “Never Ending, 2023” feature faces of passion and clashing sentiment.

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In the future, Choi hopes to collaborate with the renowned theatrical experience “Sleep No More.” This New York City rendition of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” encapsulates the audience in a choose-your-own-story play. Audience members are masked and free to roam the endless hallways of the theater, each room providing a new and different performance. Choi hopes to see her work implemented into parts of the play.

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