By Ashley Bowden
Arts & Entertainment Editor
A trip to the other side of the globe may create astounding memories and life-changing experiences. Hyon Hartberger, MFA student, found her muse in the landscapes of her home country, South Korea. Her series, “Evolution,” hung in the Student Art League Gallery from Feb. 6 to Feb. 10 and showcased vivid depictions of abstract mountains and creatures dwelling within them. “I chose to title my series that to show the culmination of my time here at LIU as a MFA student. I feel like I’ve truly evolved and grown so much,” Hyon said.
Inspiration struck Hyon Hartberger as she spent the summer abroad in Korea. After visiting the Busan Art Fair, she decided to broaden her work by changing up her art style. “If you were to see works from her past compared to now, it’s completely different, and you would think it’s a different artist,” her daughter, Naomi Hartberger, said. Each acrylic painting in Hyon’s collection is meant to be interpreted as a narrative, similarly to a diary entry. “In each piece, she left behind certain memories or certain thoughts,” Naomi said. Some paintings depict small chapels hidden in corners, others contain small birds meant to represent the artist herself within the piece.
Throughout her career as an artist, Hyon has used owls in her pieces, and they are a recurring motif in this exhibition. “The owl symbolizes a lot to do with the family in Korean traditions,” Naomi said, “So she wanted to symbolize how anywhere you go can become a home.” The paintings along the walls of the gallery displayed carefully outlined pairs of eyes in varying sizes accompanied by an owl’s feathers and beak. “She wants the eyes to symbolize how she views the world and how she looks on as other people make certain decisions [while] she’s timid and shy.” Naomi said Hyon has trained in traditional Korean calligraphy, for 32 years and is considered a master calligrapher and a member of the Korean Fine Arts Association. This style of painting is visible in the way she created the mountains depicted in her series. “Now that she’s transitioning from ink to acrylic, I guess that’s her way of bridging the gap,” Naomi said. Hyon’s paintings also include marble powder to add texture to the landscapes, “I feel like it adds another layer to her pieces,” Naomi said.
Upon returning to the U.S., Hyon used the art studios on campus every day to develop her “Evolution” series, and starting was the most difficult part of the process. After two weeks of deciding and even giving up at one point, she began with connecting owls to people and other elements of nature. She was excited and found freedom in delving into a different art style. “Every semester I did a different style, but [they looked] similar,” she said. Discouragement did not keep Hyon from creating a series that is unlike any of her previous artwork, many of which displayed horizons or grayscale images of clouds. The bright orange and yellow colors used in the paintings show Hyon’s bright and joyful personality, according to her daughter. Hyon describes the colors as calm and comfortable, like sunlight, and she has experienced profound emotions by connecting with the outdoors. The depiction of trees, wildlife and mountainous landscapes reflect Hyon’s infatuation with nature and how people interact with it. The owls in the paintings live alongside people, trees and owers. “They’re living like us,” she said. “Evolution” is a series of contemporary abstract work.