'Eunsuh Choi: Consciousness' at Pittsburgh Glass Center has artist seeking growth
Standing next to her piece “The Limited Barrier III,” Korean glass artist Eunsuh Choi says, “All of my pieces are about aspiration, dreams.”
At more than 3 feet tall, the massive piece, made of clear borosilicate glass rods and filled with blown-glass “clouds,” arranged on a pedestal nearly as tall, seems to tower above the artist. In a way, the relative scale has a metaphoric meaning, even though, as Choi says, “I do not make a piece for specific meaning.”
Choi, 37, created the piece while an artist-in-residence at the Pittsburgh Glass Center in the fall. It's the centerpiece of her current exhibit there titled “Consciousness,” which contains a dozen pieces made of borosilicate glass rods that the artist has painstakingly bent and fused with a blowtorch in a process called “flameworking.”
Currently, Choi lives and works in Rochester, N.Y., but she grew up in Seoul, South Korea, where she completed her undergraduate work, beginning with an associate of fine art degree in textile design and, later, jewelry design. She ultimately completed a master's degree in glass from Kookmin University. And since, she has moved to the United States, where she attended Rochester Institute of Technology to earn a second master of fine arts degree in glass.
In many ways, the dozen pieces on display symbolize her ambitions, not only as a student but as an immigrant. “I'm interested in portraying the human aspiration in life with organic forms from the new perspective I had about myself within a foreign country,” she says. “My Korean heritage tends to make me ask about myself in terms of my direction as an artist and an individual, especially after I came to the USA.”
That's why, she says, she hopes viewers will identify with her need for self-reflection, and see something of their own hopes and dreams in her work. “From my work, I would like to give a chance for viewers to identify their own dreams with my portrayal of the human need to progress.”
To that end, many of the structures that Choi created within these recent works resemble objects that the viewer is familiar with and comes across within daily living. Ladders, trees, clouds, boxes and even hybrids of the four appear as recurring formal motifs.
For example, in “Housed Barrier IV,” Choi combines a house form with the organic form of the tree, which seemingly grows from within the house, permeating its walls and extending beyond its borders. Choi says the tree is a metaphor for her personal aspirations, as well as those that we all might share.
“It represents my struggle inside the box of my existence when, as a foreigner and woman, I come across limitations on the attainment of my dreams,” she says. “I am in the process of flameworking my way out of the box.”
With “The Convergence of Barrier IV,” ladders become the main motif, here moving upward and into clouds. For Choi, the ladder is an object of strong symbolic reference. “Ladders are manmade tools used to assist or aid an individual, to physically raise somebody to a higher level … to reach a destination that one would be incapable of doing without such a device,” she says.
The piece “Between the Barriers” is a bit more enigmatic. Here, Choi has created two towers from interconnected grids of glass rods that contain less-rigid, more-organic forms that reach beyond the confines of the twin towers to connect and form more ladder-like structures.
“In this work, I am attempting to create a physical representation of what it feels like to have a personal moment of revelation when standing in the presence of the actual piece,” she explains.
Although beautiful-looking objects, there is an allure to these pieces that surpasses their physicality, in that the viewer not only becomes overwhelmed by what they see, but, more importantly, in what they sense internally.
“There is a certain poetry spoken when making work of this nature, with this material and in the manner that I use glass,” Choi says. And, indeed, “poetry” may well be the word that sums her work up best.
Kurt Shaw is the art critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.