Artist Julia Chon beside her painting and altar table

Spirit Dreams: Where Ancestors Come to Speak (Sept. 21, 2023–Jan. 21, 2024)

Korean American artist Julia Chon (aka @kimchi.juice) made an interesting discovery about her family. Her great-aunt — her grandfather's sister — practiced shamanism. "She wasn't a mudang — the actual shaman — but she would consult them," Ms. Chon said. "She held that belief system."

In Korea, shamanism has existed long before Buddhism and Christianity. The shaman, or mudang, acts as a bridge between the spirit and earthly worlds. Often deceased ancestors, the spirits are equally likely to bring mishap as they are good fortune. A mudang is brought in to determine who the spirit is and to calm it. Through a ceremony called kut, they try to create peace and balance between the spirit and the affected.

Through her portraits, Ms. Chon strives to do the same. Of a stunning piece of a figure surrounded frightening-looking creatures, she writes:

Who exists between time and space
Who comes to me in my dreams

SPIRIT DREAMS explored the interweaving of ancestry and diaspora, the past and the present, traditions and contemporary life. In the way that the mudang acts as a bridge between the spiritual and mundane so Ms. Chon's work connects generations across space and time.

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