18 MA5, 2005
Painter Leeah Joo refers to contemporary women writers like Joyce Carol Oates and Ann Tyler when she discusses her work. There is a calm about the young artist one might not expect having seen her skillfully rendered figurative paintings, which, like the literary fiction Joo admires, depict domestic interiors with intimate views. Joo's paintings are rich with details that are visually as well as emotionally complex. In Leeah Joo’s solo show Window Tales, the artist exhibits two very different series of window paintings, with images seen through Korean and American-style windows. In the American-style window series, Joo frames each picture with distinct window treatments to set her scene. These treatments create opportunities for Joo to present sumptuous painterly details like silk brocade curtains, fine lace, or beads of steam from the shower on a window pane. In the American-style windows, Joo often relays powerful emotional information visible in the face of one of her figures (often a woman) looking at, or through, the painting’s window. The Korean-style window paintings also feel intimate, however, the characters they portray are seen through the latticework and rice paper of traditional Korean windows. Like in Balinese shadow puppetry, the figures inside these domestic interiors are silhouettes rendered in candlelight. The viewer sees very different personages than in the nakedly transparent American windows. Gallery owner Andrew Bae’s eyes light up when discussing this difference in the works, important when understanding contemporary Korean culture, where more is hidden, private, or obscured.