As an immigrant, my work deals with the inner journey between the physical and mental landscapes of Korea where I grew up and the Western world where I have spent most of my adult life. Migration as it applies to all living creatures, including humans, is close to my heart as a subject. At Westhampton Beach, I have watched endless lines of Monarch butterflies trying to head south, fighting the strong ocean winds turning them around. It takes only a few seconds for these tiny creatures to realize something is wrong and turn themselves back to continue on their journey. I am reminded of Sebastian in Tennessee Williams’ “Suddenly Last Summer.” I have seen God!
My painting process is not unlike the Monarchs’ journey. I am seeking the heart of the matter, the deepest places my emotion carries me. Often I do not know which form this will take. But I know if it is a wrong direction when I lay down my strokes, shapes, and colors. Often this takes many trials and errors. But every hour I spend with a canvas takes me closer to the essence of what I want to say. Accidents along the way often turn out to be the right path. I think of Lee Krasner saying she got up in the morning thinking she would do a green painting but at the end of the day it became a purple painting.
I care about the picture surface. For many years I used oil and dry pigment, which required me to wear a mask and be very careful not to inhale the powder. After a decade I had to give this up for health reasons as well as the difficulty of storing and exhibiting without damage. Although I miss the deep yet clear surface yielded by the kneading of the powder into the oil paint, I have come to appreciate the way acrylic and oil paint often simultaneously create an interesting picture surface.
Suejin Jo is a Korean-born abstract painter based in New York City. She studied with Stamos and Vytlacil at the Art Students League, winning a McDowell Award juried by Richard Pousette D’art and Romare Bearden. For many years, Jo painted with a unique medium of oil and dry pigment using the process of “inlay” like Korean potters of the eleventh century. Helen Harrison of The New York Times described Jo’s painting as having “the character of an ancient wall painting.” She is the recipient of a number of awards, including the Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Exhibition Award, and has exhibited nationally and internationally. Jo’s most recent solo show, Migration_Passages, opened at the John Molloy Gallery in New York City in March, 2020, but ended up in quarantine as a result of the pandemic. Her work is held in many public and private collections, including the Library of Congress and the WTC Memorial Museum. The US State Department selected Jo’s painting “Pontchartrain” to be included in its 2012 desk calendar “Homage to American Women Artists.”