At the heart of JooYoung Choi’s exhibition “Love and Wondervision” is a monumental installation titled “Like a Bolt Out of the Blue, Faith Steps In and Sees You Through—Infinite Feels Arrangement.”
It’s like a rainbow bright cosmic psychedelic kids show come to life—populated by her alter-ego C.S. Watson, “royal artist and historian of the Cosmic Womb,” a smiling cactus, a pink panda, happy rocks, a water drop character, a scowling creature that seems to have a head of broccoli, blue cartoon trees, a space travel portal, and a happy red bed by the name of Pom Pom Thunder, carrying characters on an adventure.
“What if there was a super highway of dreams and this magical bed with these magical shoes could fly on the superhighway and find people and reconnect them,” Choi told Art And Culture Texas in June 2023.
The exhibition at Rice University’s Moody Center for the Arts in Houston, Texas, from May 25 to Aug. 26, 2023, also features video, puppets and paintings by the Houston-based artist.
“The creativity inside of us can bring us all on an incredible voyage, led by love. The love of others who care for us and help us grow, and the love we give to others on this journey I call Wondervision” the arts center quotes Choi.
Love and reconnection are themes that run deep in Choi’s art. She was born in Seoul, South Korea, in 1982 and was adopted by a family who raised her as Stacy Schwindt in Concord, New Hampshire, where she sometimes ran into racism in the predominantly white community.
“A lot of my original art was very focused on understanding what it meant to be adopted. And during my undergrad [at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston], I was able to reunite with my birth family,” Choi told New Hampshire Public Radio in January 2023.
Texas Monthly reported in 2022: “Because she was born out of wedlock, her birth wasn’t officially recorded. … A relative sent her away when her parents weren’t present, setting off a family drama that lasted for years and led to her mother and father splitting up. Her father searched the country’s orphanages for a decade trying to find her.”
Choi began meeting her birth family during a 2007 trip to South Korea. Which prompted her to begin using her birth name, and later change it legally. “And so by the time I got to grad school [at Lesley University in Cambridge], I had found my birth mother, my birth father. I found out I had two brothers and a little sister and all these aunts and uncles and cousins,” Choi told New Hampshire Public Radio in January 2023. “So there was this abundance of love that was filling this void that was part of my life growing up. And so when I got into graduate school, I really didn’t know what to paint about anymore. And I realized that I used my imagination over all those years to kind of create this magical realm for myself that I think kind of protected me.”
“Love and Wondervision” is a glimpse into the world Choi has been building for more than a decade: “The Cosmic Womb.” It’s a place she’s populated with hundreds of characters: Rainbow Rabbit, Lady K, Queen Kiok, a pink octopus named Putt-Putt, Panda-Corn, Hippo Man, Lydia Nine, Big Six, Albeit the Miracle Bear, alter-egos, characters inspired by friends, bullies, a queen, a goddesses, that traveling bed.
As she’s imagined it, it’s a place for healing from the separation from her birth parents, a place “we can go where we can grow and be ourselves. And I think that I began creating that from the moment I found out that I was adopted,” she told New Hampshire Public Radio. It’s a home, a safe haven for all. “The Cosmic Womb,” Choi wrote on her website in 2018, “is a magical realm that has become home to every snow person we thought melted away, every imaginary friend we grew out of, here they all are welcome.”
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