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Artist Statement - Chunbum Park

Artist Statement

Painting myself as the beautiful woman that I desire to become, I defy the racialization of beauty (both physical and performative) that makes white beauty iconic by pursuing anti-racist aesthetics and hybrid beauty. 


The racialization of beauty is a social and cultural process of making white beauty the iconic beauty. This is seen in Japanese anime that depicts Northeast Asians with white features and Hollywood movies that traditionally featured white actors and actresses as the protagonists and through a normative lens.


According to Shirley Anne Tate, anti-racist aesthetics seek the original beauty prior to racialization, while hybrid beauty borrows "beauty stylizations and practices." Contrary to Tate's assertion that the original beauty does not exist because beauty is essentially a copy of a copy, I found the definition of the original Northeast Asian beauty in the ancient Chinese and Japanese text per Cho Kyo's writing (as well as Korean sources). 


However, as the original definition disregards the female breasts and worships pale/light skin, I reject the original beauty in favor of hybrid beauty, which combines warm skin tones, prominent features including the breasts and high cheekbones, slanted eyes (which I find beautiful, if depicted with fine lines and not overtly as stereotypes), round noses, etc. 

My background of living most of my life in the United States, despite having been born in South Korea, also offers a chance for hybridity. My taste in beauty and aesthetics are most likely westernized and/or whitewashed to begin with. Hybrid beauty offers the most viable option for me in terms of resisting the racialization of beauty because I do not find the original definition of beauty to be palatable to my aesthetic taste. 


Unable to transition into womanhood via gender-affirming surgery due to the societal and familial pressures that oppose my genderfluid and transgender aspirations, I repeatedly and endlessly paint myself as a woman, turning on and off my feminine role and personality - both imagined in fantasy and performed in reality in front of a camera  - like a Japanese onnagata. The onnagata are male actors in the Kabuki Theatre who specialize in the feminine role and have transcended their performance into an artful femininity. The onnagata also contradict Judith Butler's assertion that gender is performative, meaning that a series of repeated acts commit the person into the specific gender role, of which the person has no choice or on and off switch, like the onnagata. 


Sexuality and beauty of the female body are also highly important aspects of my painting as I have been a virgin all my life (currently at the age of 32), so the painting becomes an outlet of expression and fantasy and an opportunity for sublimation.

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