textile arts – such as embroidery, patchwork, and quilting – are cultural and
historic legacies passed down from one generation to the next. Although weaving
and embroidery are among the most ancient and universal forms of human
expression, in today’s fast-paced, high-tech world of power looms and infinite graphic
reproducibility, few people have the interest, patience, and determination to learn
and master the slow and meticulous techniques of hand production in textiles.
Luckily, however, talented artists such as Wonju Seo are breathing new life
into some of these ancient skills. Seo’s work embodies her respect for two of
the most time-honored crafts of Korean women: embroidery and, in particular, bojagi – patchwork cloths used for
wrapping and carrying everyday objects in traditional Korea. While Seo’s
dynamic geometries of multicolored cloth draw inspiration from and pay tribute
to the Korean women who created bojagi
in generations past, her artworks vividly express
contemporary concerns and realities. To
Seo, these abstract compositions represent “windows” - into the world around us
today as well as the lives of her Korean predecessors, who lived in a Confucian
culture that framed their freedoms in distinct parameters.
Like her forebears, Seo expresses her point of view and life experiences via powerful juxtapositions of color, sometimes conveying her communicative intent quite literally, as in The Words of My Colors, which includes patchwork “pages” of Korean silk and ramie inserted into an encyclopedia. Also in three-dimensional form are Seo’s “wearable” bojagi, which explore issues of personal and cultural identity, informed by her experience as a Korean-American woman steeped in history but living in the modern world. Seo’s strength is that she builds on inherited traditions, rewording them to yield new interpretations that delight the eye and invite the viewer to consider the ways that the past continues to inform and enrich the present. Through the creativity of artists such as Seo, the ancient arts of bojagi and embroidery are invigorated and carried forward into the future.
Young Yang Chung Ph.D
Founder, Director, The Chung Young Yang Embroidery Museum
Founder, CEO, Seol Won Foundation