As a jury of three we worked diligently to select one clear winner from the seventy-nine excellent candidates for the first Korean-American Art Award. We were pleased to see that entries came from all over the United States including the east, mid-west, south, southwest as well as from California. Our first challenge was to narrow the field, and after several reviews, we came to agreement on four finalists who were CHONG-KEUN CHU, EUNJU KANG, YUN-DONG NAM and HYE SOOK PARK. From these we selected YUN-DONG NAM for his very interesting work in clay. As jurors, exposed to his work for the first time, we were drawn to his individualized use of the clay medium and his capacity to communicate in the form. Series of small objects hung in clusters create a larger work reminiscent of seed pods, masks, organic forms and even tools which seem to speak of mysticism, growth, birth and renewal. The small scale of each object asks for intimate examination while the grouping of a whole has formal impact from a distance. Some works are humane and accepting and some less friendly creating a life-like interaction between opposing points of view. The overriding consideration lies in the clay material itself which Yun-Dong sees as “an organic material able to capture one’s ideas and transform them into reality. Emotion and energy are inherent properties in clay. In clay the earth holds, grows, wears down and is renewed.” We offer our congratulations to Yun-Dong Nam and the other three finalists as well as all of those who entered this first competition. I would also like to note the overall high quality of slides submitted from all over the United States. It was not easy to limit the choices to four finalists and to one winner. Yun-Dong Nam’s work is full of energy and ideas. It has a feeling of abundance and exuberance. His choice of clay as medium is ideal as expressive vehicle for his references to both nature and man-made forms. Alluding to the ongoing process of life itself, the artist blends the organic with the imagination and the traditional with the innovative.
Yun-Dong Nam was born in Seoul, Korea and received his M.F.A. from Cranbrook Academy of Arts in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Before coming to Chapel Hill in 1995, Yun-Dong held teaching positions at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, California State University at Long Beach, and at Bennington College in Vermont. He also held an artist residency at the Bemis Foundation in Omaha, Nebraska before becoming an Associate Professor of Art at UNC. In 2000, Yun-Dong received the University of North Carolina’s Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. In addition to his acclaimed teaching career, he is an active and widely recognized ceramic sculptor, having exhibited his work in over sixty group exhibitions and ten solo exhibitions. Most recently, Yun-Dong’s pieces appeared in two shows: the Asian American Artist Exhibition at the Kentucky Museum of Arts & Design in Louisville, and 6595 Miles (10614 KM) at the Network Gallery of the Cranbrook Museum of Art in Bloomfield, MI.
In addition to extensive showings in the U.S., Yun-Dong frequently displays his work overseas, including a solo exhibition held at the Tho-Art Space Gallery in Seoul, Korea. Several publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Ceramic Art Monthly, and Art & Antique Magazine, have highlighted his extensive body of work. Among many other professional accolades, Yun-Dong’s work received first prize from the Korean Arts Foundation of America in 1992.
Emotion and energy are inherent properties of clay. In clay the Earth is held; it grows, wears down, and is renewed. As an organic material, clay is able to capture one’s ideas and transform them into a tangible reality. The by-product then becomes a living tool to educate and inform. As a ceramic artist I am dealing with a history of connections to the Earth. What I am seeking in my work is a reconnection to the rhythms of nature. In using clay to make my pieces, I am attempting to fuse with the elemental properties of nature. Within our society we have broken these connections to the Earth. As artists we can create an awareness of such a loss and demonstrate a hope of reconnecting.