Arts & Life, Fine & Performing Arts

Circus spectacles brought to life

Growing up in South Korea, Juyeon Yang lived in a society that she believed devalued women.

She recalled the times when her grandfather wouldn’t allow her to do certain things as a child; she wasn’t able to attend art galleries while her brother could, because male education was often valued more.

Now, as a senior majoring in art education at Long Beach State, Yang has her own artwork on display. Yang’s work hangs in an exhibit titled, “Let’s Represent” at the School of Art galleries. The gallery features artwork from a broad spectrum that explores different cultures and identities through personal experiences.

Living in South Korea and New Zealand for multiple years prior to residing in the U.S. for college, Yang had multiple cultural experiences that have influenced her perception of the world.

But for Yang, her experience of living in South Korea and witnessing how women were valued less than men inspired the context for much of her artwork. She decided to take her experience one step further by focusing specifically on Asian circuses — a profession that women were not allowed to work in.

To find her circus-themed inspiration, Yang browsed images online of old Korean circuses and was surprised by some of the images that she saw.

“It was kind of hideous,” Yang said. “Those images of ancient Asian circuses that I found were all performed by male actors and I felt sad. Why could women not perform?”

Yang drew inspiration from the male-dominated photos she had seen and recreated her own vision of a circus — one filled with bright colors, whimsical imagery and various positive depictions of women as the performers. Also featured in several of her paintings are elephants, which she used as a symbol for the hopes, dreams and abilities of women.

Despite the intricacy and thought-out details of her artwork, Yang completed most of her individual paintings very quickly due to dedicating entire days at a time to finish each piece. Yang began her artistic journey during her time spent in New Zealand, but it was when she had first moved to the U.S. that she found herself with a plethora of time to spend on her artwork.

“When I first came to America I was very frustrated,” Yang said. “I had no friends yet and nothing to do.”

To fill up all of the vacant time that she had, Yang was able to fully immerse herself in her artwork, spending entire days on her projects.

While she has created various other artworks with different themes, she hopes that after graduating she can move back to South Korea to teach children about cultural art and how they too, can represent their identity.

Yang’s exhibit was one of the five featured galleries last week in the School of Art galleries.

The galleries rotate different student artists on a weekly basis and are open for viewing from noon to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday and from noon to 7 p.m. Wednesdays, located in the Fine Arts Buildings on campus.

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