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Korean artist challenges Eurocentric standard of beauty

Debbie Han was recently announced the winner of the 2009 Sovereign Asian Art Prize for her work entitled Seated Three Graces. Ms. Han is the first Korean to win the prestigious regional prize awarded annually in Hong Kong.

Combining Orient to Occident, the winning photographic image took two years to complete. It features three nude actual present-day Asian women onto whom typical classical Western goddess heads have been attached.

In the words of the artist, "A painstakingly meticulous digital rendering process has been applied [removing every pore, hair, and imperfection] to generate the marble-like skin texture of each figure, thereby intensifying its illusive power. The dissonance between the head and the body is to provoke critical issues from art history, social values, interracial relations, and contemporary social challenges."

han artist

han gracesSource:

Born in Korea, Ms. Han migrated to the U.S. with her family while still in elementary school. She majored in art at UCLA and received a master's degree from Pratt Institute in New York. After working as an artist in Los Angeles, she felt a strong urge to return to South Korea and so came back in 2003.

"I felt intensely for what was happening in this part of the world," she said. "Being Korean-American, I grew-up accustomed to juggling two cultures in the States, but seeing the clashes of tradition and westernization in Asia today was something else."

"I'm an Asian woman, and I had to do (this piece). Everyone is pressuring Asian women to conform to the Western standards. Someone has to ... justify and validate the ... existence of Asian beauty as it is, not in a didactic way but in a way that can be revealing.''

You can view more examples of Ms. Han's work from the same series as well as her Artist's Statement here.


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