Heal Thyself (ceramic) (Photo: Olivia Kim)
Olivia Kim works on Golden Morning (glass and gold Heal Thyself (ceramic) Inner Sun (lead crystal and gold leaf) Out of the Abyss, using the artist’s childhood friend Balance (cast glass on gneiss, ruby)
Last SlideNext Slide
Olivia Kim's earliest memory, back in her native Philippines, was the moment she knew she'd be an artist.
"I remember being on this cement porch outside," she said. "I still couldn't speak yet and was probably less than 2 years old. I remember sitting there and all of a sudden getting all these kinds of sensations and images of what my life would be like. I had this early on, knowing I was going to be an artist. It's very weird. It's a nonverbal memory, and deeply ingrained, but that's why this whole art thing has gone forward like a highway truck."
That "whole art thing" has propelled Kim around the world—to Panama at age 16 where she worked on her Spanish and saw ancient petroglyphs; to Peru, on a solo trip at age 17, to seek out the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu; to the Philippines and Italy. Along the way, she studied art, made art, met a stone sculptor in Italy who would change her life.
Her parents had paved the way. They founded their own jewelry business, the Paper Bead Company, using up-cycled magazine paper, and they opened Archimage gift shop in 1983 with Kim's aunt and uncle. The eclectic store, on Monroe Avenue, is a Rochester institution—one that taught the young Kim that "it is possible to make and sell handmade work through craft shows and shops. My parents showed me that you can figure out how to solve a problem as you go along and come up with wonderful solutions."
ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE
One of Kim's sculptures, "Heal Thyself," is now part of a collection of 200 pieces owned by Rochester art collector Dean Spong. A new exhibit, Body Norms, comprising 18 ceramic sculptures by area artists from Spong's collection, will be on display until March 11, 2016, at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo.
You can admire Kim's work, but to hear about the constant study, travel, fear and discovery that helped forge it is to appreciate the intangible elements of art.
Here, Kim describes the long, continual exploration behind her art:
"As a child I was interested in world cultures from reading ancient myths and legends. At The School of the Arts in Rochester, where I attended middle and high school, there were students of different racial backgrounds. Being friends with various social cliqúes made me happy to learn about how special each way of life could be. The biggest motivation to travel was to experience art and world cultures firsthand.
What I found is that artworks have a presence that pictures in books or posters don't have. I was drawn to architecture, feeling what it was like to move throughout a space. Sculpture had to be seen from different angles and in different lighting to be appreciated. My body's relationship to a sculpture was the initial experience, which changed and developed into more subtle impressions.
Colors seen in person were very different from what a camera captured. Paintings felt like more than just an image and had presence that can't even be described.
“I remember sitting up at the Temple of the Sun on my 18th birthday, watching the sun come down on the Andes Mountains.”
I spent various amounts of time in different countries, from a week to years. At 17, I went by myself to visit Macchu Picchu. I was interested in the subtle energies of Macchu Picchu and, believe me, they are real. A curious thing happened while I was there. The Incans spoke Quechua, which is not Spanish, but somehow I could understand them anyway. This taught me that people communicate on a level that is deeper and more direct than words. I remember sitting up at the Temple of the Sun on my 18th birthday, watching the sun come down on the Andes Mountains.
Later I spent around nine years studying and making my artwork in various parts of Italy. While studying at the Florence Academy of Art, I visited parts of Italy, Greece, England, France, the former Czech Republic and Russia.
When I was making my bronzes in Carrara, Italy, I met a stone sculptor who became my fiancé. Life in Italy with my fiancé was wonderful but actually quite stressful. I realize in hindsight that I was suffering from culture shock.
I was learning Italian by listening to the people around me, mainly my fiancé. Not being able to understand the language at first felt isolating. In the meantime I was struggling to do art commissions, getting used to rural life in the mountains and developing my own artwork. It felt terrifying, and yet the period made me grow quite a bit. I felt a lot of anxiety and frustration, which eventually forced me to look at the causes of fear.
My fiance, Dario Tazzioli, was the first person I had met in a long time who seemed open and trusting. It felt like the hard, protective solitude I maintained in art school could flow out of my heart, and the simple part of me could be open again. We talked about art, shared our diverse approaches to life, and worked on art commissions.
“Life was simple and empty, which made for a great internal space to work.”
We showed our work in European art galleries. I wanted to see if I could make it as an artist in Italy. Indeed, it was doable. The Appenine village where we lived was Dario's hometown of Frassinoro, and I was always treated very well by everyone. Life was simple and empty, which made for a great internal space to work.
But eventually, something was burning in my heart—the desire to create a new voice for my sculptures. In Frassinoro, I spent three years making a leaping sculpture of a childhood friend, Melinda Phillips of Futurpointe Dance in Rochester (Out of the Abyss, aluminum and steel, 2007), using anatomy books, video and photo references. I did this while doing commissions and teaching art, which was taking up too much of my energy.
I needed a period to focus on the study of movement.
So I decided to move back to Rochester to regain some perspective and to study body movement, which was an unknown direction for me.
Four years ago I opened a studio in the Hungerford Building in Rochester. Since then it has been another whirlwind to build a solid studio, research human body movement and develop techniques in bronze and glass casting. I must have participated in at least 12 different shows and exhibitions locally and internationally.
I've made some sculptures of people doing common and dance movements. Recently I've worked with members of FuturPointe Dance and Natalie Rogers-Cropper of Garth Fagan Dance to learn about different types of contemporary dance movements. I would like to study world dances from indigenous to contemporary for starters. Then somewhere along the line I want to get into sports and compare everything with everyday movements. I've been finding that even the simplest gestures affect us psychologically, physically, emotionally and vice versa.
There is something intriguing to this that I want to explore."
For more, go to oliviakimstudio.com.
The Burchfield Penney Art Center (1300 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo; 716-878-6001, burchfieldpenney.org) has a permanent collection with works by more than 800 artists connected to western New York.
In addition to the Body Norms exhibit there, Kim's work will appear in the 10-Year Anniversary exhibit at Ock Hee's Gallery: (2 Lehigh Street Honeoye Falls; 624-4730, ockheesgallery.com).