11 x 14 inch mixed media on canvas
by Miki Willa
I have finished the first in my visual ode series. This is an ode to South Korea, where I spent some time in the late 1960's. I fell in love with the language, the alphabet, the colors, the markets, and the people.
On the evening of July 20, 1969, I was in Chicamagua, Georgia with my grandmother, and we were watching Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins prepare for and make the first manned landing on our moon. The next day, I left for an adventurous trip to Seoul, South Korea via Fairbanks, Alaska and Tokyo, Japan. My first view of Seoul was as we circled the airport in preparation for landing. There were tall buildings, a gray river, and rice paddies and vegetable fields as far as the eye could see. When we landed and started down the stairs (no nice covered hallways in those days), I was assaulted by the strong smells from the "fertilizer" used in the fields. After finally clearing customs, and learning that my golf clubs and two suitcases of clothes were missing, I was taken to my new home with my father and step-mother. It was the start of a wonderful stay in the Land of the Morning Calm.
Our home was in a European complex of homes on a small hill north of Seoul. We had wonderful views of traditional homes mixed with more modern structures. The city was in a transition from the ancient to the modern place it has become. My father was doing work for the US government at the time, so I had access to the military bases there. I soon joined the FASCOM theater group and made several good friends. I also decided I wanted to go to university while I was there and take some art classes. Some of my father's friends pulled some strings and I got into Ewha Women's University where I took figure painting and traditional Japanese scroll painting. This was a Methodist university founded for young Korean women. It was a unique and rewarding experience to attend classes, go on field trips, and visit some of my classmates in their very traditional Korean homes. My figure drawing skills have not improved since my attempts at this fine school.
One of my other favorite things to do was to go shopping at the old market centers near the ancient gates of the wall around the city. I loved the colors, the smells, and the excitement of the markets. I understand all that has changed now. I am very glad I have these old memories.
When I decided on Korea as my first subject for this series, I knew I wanted to focus on the alphabet and the old. I had never been in anyplace so old before, and I was so enamoured of the rich history of place. I have combined current text from a recent newspaper and copies of ancient text found in a recently unearthed burial. I chose colors that I find very calming, for the nickname of the country. The image transfer is from a photo my father took of a farmer pedaling water into his fields the ancient way. I printed it in black and white on special paper from Johathon Talbot for making image transfers with ink jet printers. I applied it by coating the collage surface and the photo with gel medium, waiting until it dried, then rubbing the paper away with water. I is a bit hard to see in the photo, but I am pleased with the results. I used stretched canvas as the base and have painted the sides dark gray.