Art as an Everyday Thing 

Aijung Kim's true medium is spontaneity.

click to enlarge Aijung Kim likes to go from "obsession to obsession." Above, the artist's "Radishes."
  • Aijung Kim likes to go from "obsession to obsession." Above, the artist's "Radishes."

Sprouthead is the perfect moniker for a plant-and-nature-loving artist whose wide-ranging concepts grow organically out of her head. During an evening's sampler at the Visual Arts Center this summer, I not only got to fumble with small pages, needle and decorative thread in making a rudimentary booklet — or 'zine — but also discovered that the instructor, Aijung Kim, aka Sprouthead, is an artist whose work stands handsomely on its own merits.

Kim's website describes her aptly as "artist, writer and printmaker ... fascinated by the intersection of visual art and language," though it doesn't convey how her finely controlled technical skill and artistic vision merge to radiate the spontaneity arising from her works. Writing and illustrating poems (usually free verse), making prints and drawings — and often combining all of these into a 15- to 20-page 'zine, she was one of the very popular participating artisans at Plant Zero's Handmade Holiday earlier this month. Buyers purchased work ranging from her paper earrings — made of maps and of archival comics — to her fine linocuts and monotypes.

At age 29, but with petite features that make her look much younger, Kim doesn't draw a distinction between "fine art" and "craft." As she puts it, "Art should be an everyday thing ... from illustrations in books to the painting hanging in your kitchen to the exhibit at the museum and wherever you find it in between."

The middle of three girls in her family, she lived most of her life in Rochester, N.Y., and received her bachelor of fine arts degree from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, majoring in fine arts and printmaking. "I've found Richmond so welcoming and artsy since I moved here two and a half years ago," she says. "It has a lot going on but isn't overwhelming."

When asked about her notable productivity, Kim says: "I don't have a full-time job so I work in cycles, going from obsession to obsession while cobbling together things to earn a living ... freelance illustration, teaching art workshops [at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Visual Arts Center of Richmond] and selling art at craft shows, on consignment and online. Many of my ideas start out in my sketchbook, and most of them stew inside me for a while. They usually change shape during the process of creation. I'm a perfectionist so I like to take time to work on all of the details and put my personal energy into my art. This year I realized I'd like to develop certain artistic abilities more so I can better communicate my ideas, such as developing my figure drawing, perspective, brushwork and storytelling."

Her work shows her admiration for and the influence of well-known printmaker Gustave Baumann, cartoonist Lynda Barry and illustrators Edward Gorey, Peter Sis and Tove Jansson. What's in the future? She loves children's books created by Arnold Lobel and by Beni Montresor and ultimately wants to devote her time to writing and illustrating books, especially works for children.

"I've been gearing my work to what I can sell at crafts shows," Kim says, "but I plan to focus more on two-dimensional work, such as decks of prototype reading cards, in the spring." It's worth keeping an eye on this creative mind to see what sprouts. S

For information on the work of Aijung Kim, go to aijungkim.com.


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