Hee Jo Roh

Me, Myself 2021
Digital art, (17” x 22”)

Divine Affection, 2021
Digital art, gold leaf (22” x 17”)

Reflect Yourself, 2021
Mixed media with digital art and mirrors, (22” x 17”)

David, 2021
Digital Painting, (17” x 22”)

Hee Joo Roh

        I take croquis and other practice sketches I’ve done in the past and compile them onto a single digital file. The sketches then are placed in separate layers, and from there, I make certain layers visible or not visible, depending on what I like. I keep adjusting and fine-tuning, adding different colors and lights until the image “clicks.” I pick the final product, and how much of each layer gets to show. What comes naturally as a final product is not something that is conventionally eye-pleasing, but the process is just as important as the final product. See, this process mirrors my own journey regarding identity, as a queer Korean American.

       I obtained my American citizenship last year officially becoming a Korean American, but ever since I became old enough to think about myself, I wrestled with my standing in this society. I over performed  the Asian stereotypes that the American culture has prescribed for me in order to feel more “Asian,” to convince myself that I am not being whitewashed. I didn’t want to be American at all. I wasn’t born in this country, and I felt that I didn’t want to be a part of something that I wasn’t. But the truth of it is, I was American. I came here when I was young, and I tried my hardest to blend in to not stick out. I was, and am, partly culturally American.

       Now, I know that I get to pick and choose what I want to be. I get to pick which aspects of Korean culture that I like, and which aspects of American culture I like. I get to be whoever I want to be, whether that’s a Korean, American, or a Korean American.

       To reflect this, I take the sketches I did. The sketches are marks of my everyday life, as they are casual sketches done to improve. They represent the mundane. By overlapping and deciding what to make it shown, I’m picking and choosing the piece’s identity. I get to choose the outcome, similar to how I get to choose who I am. After I create the final product, I let the image simmer in my mind and have a conversation with it in my head. The meaning and what it reflects comes from the analysis of my own process.

        Even in pieces that are not overlapped, my subject remains the same. I draw myself with a halo because I can be divine, too, as a queer Korean American. The conventional divine iconography currently doesn’t encompass everyone, and thus excludes people of color, let alone queer people of color.