Resident guides others in blooming through art

Artist InJung Oh finds commonality between creative exchanges and linguistic acquisition.

"I approach art as a language through which you get to learn different things and are exposed to different things," the Hinsdale resident said.

Helping young people become proficient in understanding art - and, by extension, one another - led her to organize the Spirit of Life painting workshop this Saturday, May 4, at the Hinsdale Public Library (see Page 26 for details). The program will examine the work of celebrated Chicago-based Chinese artists the Zhou Brothers.

"If we use art education to teach kids about different cultures, then they will appreciate them more and will be more open to differences," she said.

Oh immigrated to the U.S. from South Korea at age 13 without her immediate family or a command of English. She moved in with her aunt and uncle living in Chicago's northern suburbs, seeking opportunities that seemed out of reach in her native land. Oh credits her high school art teacher for giving her new communication tools.

"I didn't really speak the language, but I developed a way to express myself through visual art," she said,

In 2013 she founded the OH Art Foundation to promote such cross-cultural interactions. Oh said that represented a shift in her artistic vision.

"I believe in this energy that we carry, and I think it sparks when your wish or your desire, whatever you call it, manifests," she said, explaining how she coined the term "Volossom" combining the prefix vol- with blossom to capture the concept. "If we just pause and think about what you want in your life, it doesn't matter what age you are, how you can turn that (desire) into a floral shape."

Oh said kids in her workshops have rendered their inner longings, and sometimes their struggles, into this form of art to help bring them to the surface. She confessed to using the programs as a way to also expand her social network.

"Just doing (my artwork) was taking all my time. I didn't have any other social life," she related. "I think it was a way for me to connect and make a difference and fulfill myself."

Later this month the foundation will host its second annual Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Festival of the Arts, featuring music, dance and other performances, along with visual artists, to promote diversity. Oh hopes to add Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations to the schedule next year.

Two years ago Oh and her family of four moved to Hinsdale, drawn to their historic home by its positive feng shui energy. She said suburban serenity was a welcome change from the hectic, albeit stimulating, city pace.

"I love the energy here," Oh said of village life. "I love just listening to the birds singing and looking out my window and relaxing with some milk tea. What more can you ask?"

At last check, Oh's May 4 program had experienced such demand that it was waitlisted. But take heart, as all are invited back to the library from 1 to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 11, when the Zhou Brothers themselves visit for a meet-and-greet and to sign copies of their book.

- story by Ken Knutson, photo by Jim Slonoff

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean