Interview with Stella Im Hultberg for “Tiger Whiskers”

SH: For those that are not familiar with you and your work, can you give us a brief look at your artistic background and zodiac sign? 

SIH: Hello, to those that are new to me and my work – my name is Stella Im Hultberg, I’m a Virgo fire dragon. 

I am mostly self-taught as an artist, save for some extracurricular drawing classes I took as a kid. I studied industrial design in college and worked in the field for some years designing various kinds of products. 

I began showing art 14 years ago, sharing my earliest days with Thinkspace, whom I owe the path I’m walking on to this day!

Thinkspace is pleased to present Tiger Whiskers featuring new work by Stella Im Hultberg. Her background has lent to a diverse blend of cultural influences to pull from and her works meld the figurative with the illustrative to create dreamy painterly compositions.

In anticipation of Tiger Whiskers, our interview with Stella Im Hultberg discusses the most exciting thing to happen in her life thus far, the artistic challenges she faced in this new body of work, and some solid life advice.

SH: What is the inspiration and themes you explored for this body of work?

SIH: I have been reading a lot of texts (online and books) and thinking about traditional rituals and belief systems/world view of Korea, as well as other cultures. One of the things that really runs through nearly all cultures is the idea of protection. Protecting one’s own children, family, tribe, etc, seems to have always been one of the top priorities since humans came to existence. 

This body of works was mostly inspired by talismanic rituals and customs that are meant to wish one the best in life and protection from evil forces.

I read that even up until not too long ago, people in Korea used to have a painting of a tiger in the house as a talisman. They believed that having one would keep them safe and protected from other evil forces/harms or misfortunes. I have heard it’s still a custom in North Korea to this day. This was one of the inspirations for “Talisman”.

Wedding customs also gave me inspiration for this series. For example, “The Immortals” was mostly inspired by a bridal garb called “hwarot (활옷)” that is usually red with intricately detailed embroidery of 10 things from nature that symbolize long lives (including the sun and the moon). This in and of itself shows the worldview of ancient Koreans, and to embroider that with care onto a bride’s outfit was to wish them a happy, long life and marriage.

It occurred to me that these rituals and customs were maybe rooted in a mother’s wish for their children to be safe and healthy. I have a theory that all these religions and traditions in our world may not have made it to this day and age of science and technology had it not been for the desperate desires of parents that could only rely on a superpower to entrust their best wishes for their children and the children of their children.

SH: What is your favorite and least favorite part of the creative process?

SIH: My favorite part is starting with an idea/vision and seeing it happen layer by layer, hour after hour. The journey itself, even the battles and fights.

My least favorite thing about being an artist is everything else not directly involving creating – business stuff, and wrapping up the paintings (scanning, shipping, packing, etc).

But if I singled out my least favorite part out of the whole creative process only, would be sharpening pencils.

SH: Is there a particular piece in this exhibition you feel really challenged you? If so, why and what makes you proud of this piece.

SIH: I spent much more time building up the layers and inserting details in this series compared with my previous works, so I ended up encountering challenges with each piece. 

When you’re building up so many layers, you’re essentially painting the same thing over and over. With “Talisman” and “The Immortals”, I got near nauseous painting so many layers of so many flowers. 

“The Immortals” is also a very different format than I’m used to, at 12 inches wide by 48 inches long. Figuring out a composition that would work and also wrangling the panel was quite challenging for me.

SH: If you could make an album cover for any musical artist, who would it be?

SIH: At the moment, IU.

SH: A Netflix movie is being made about your life, who would be cast to play you (the actor does not need to look like you, more be able to capture your essence) and what kind of movie would it be? Try to describe it with similar movies.

SIH: Ugh sorry, that would be an utter flop, I would have to really have a long talk with Netflix execs to convince them to look elsewhere.

If they must still go through it (good luck Netflix!), whatever it is, maybe it should star ScarJo, since I’m Asian. Lol

SH: What is the best technical advice you’ve received in regards to painting / being an artist? What is the best philosophical advice you’ve received?

SIH: Because I never had a formal art education, I can’t really remember if I ever got a piece of technical advice. Not directly anyway. 

But for being an artist – is to show up at your studio every day. Even if you’re there just reading a book, showing up is key. I know a lot of people think artists do whatever they feel like and work whenever but a lot of artists I know work diligently and to schedule. I follow the schedule and deadlines I have set for myself much more strictly now, now that I have a kid and time really is precious!

For general philosophical advice – I really like the quote that says to “be soft. Do not let the world make you hard”. 

Also personally, my mom told me (loosely translated), “if you’ve already committed do doing something, do it without complaint and with a happy heart”. I have found that attitude to be so helpful when taking the time and effort out to help others. And for parenting, of course. 

SH: What do you think the role of artists in society? How does other artwork inform how you move through life?

SIH: I do love how there were always artists, throughout history, that contributed to the subversive culture. Something that stands up to authority and the climate of the days. Especially in the olden days when art was more of an exclusive, elite form of cultural element. I believe it still is true, and whether or not it shows on the surface, I, too, have been influenced by current political/societal climate.

I love the captured moments that could be missed otherwise, and the suspension and extension of emotional moments and snippets I can see in other artworks. Connecting with the viewer at a very human, emotional, experiential level shows me hope for humanity. It seems to tell me that someone is out there paying attention to the most detailed, tiniest slivers of other people’s emotions (through their own, perhaps) that can be verbally inexplicable.

SH: What is the coolest or most exciting thing to happen to you thus far in life and is it because of or connected to your work?

SIH: Having my daughter. This is obviously not directly related to my work but everything about the way I work and the way I view things (including my work) has changed for good since she was born. 

It was a rough beginning, and in some ways I’m still trying to figure out the right balance between parenting and painting, but now that she’s a bit older (she’s 6 now) and we can have some interesting conversations and idea discussions, she has been the biggest source of enrichment in my life. 

I learn so many new things every day from her, not to mention getting ideas (and knowledge even) that have never occurred to me before. 

She and her future are my inspiration and my fuel to propel me forward as an artist now.

SH: Fun Hypothetical: A world-renowned chef wants to make a dish inspired by your artwork and favorite food. What would be the dishes ingredients and what is it similar too?

SIH: I can’t really think of how this will relate to my works and all I can think of is what I want to eat now that I have this chef at my command haha 

My cooking mind isn’t creative enough to come up with new dishes for someone to invent (especially relating to my work). 

But if the said world-renowned chef happens to be an older Asian mom/grandma/auntie, I’ll happily eat, um, I mean, I’ll be happy with anything she creates.

Opening Reception: Saturday, November 9th 6-9 PM

On view: November 9, 2019 – November 30, 2019

THINKSPACE PROJECTS presents INSTRUMENTS OF CHANGE

Thinkspace Projects is honored to present Instruments of Change at the Fullerton Museum Center,  a groundbreaking exhibition that transforms the museum with site-specific murals by 8 Latin-American street artists. This will be the first time in history that a US museum has hosted this kind of art show. In mid-November, the Fullerton Museum Center will open its doors to Alvaro Naddeo, Curiot, Fefe Talavera, Fernando Chamarelli, Hilda Palafox (aka Poni), Paola Delfin, Saner, and Zezao, giving them 10 days to create a series of large-scale murals and installations. The new work will be revealed on November 24 with an opening reception from 6pm to 10pm, in tandem with the closing party of DesignerConInstruments of Change will be on view until February 23, 2020. In addition, the Instruments of Change: A Compendium exhibition will be on view up the street at the Fullerton College Art Gallery on the campus of the Fullerton College, from January 30 to February 19, 2020.

Dedicated to full-inclusion, all materials, signage, and advertising will be presented in both English and Spanish. “We really want to welcome in a portion of the SoCal community that is often overlooked and neglected by the area’s museums,” says Andrew Hosner, co-owner and curator of Thinkspace Projects. “We are very excited and honored to have the opportunity to put together a show of this caliber for a Southern California based institution. The street art culture throughout Mexico and South America is rich with history and has so many varied styles. Following in the footsteps of the ‘Vitality and Verve’ exhibitions that we curated at the Long Beach Museum of Art, ‘Instruments of Change’ aims to shine a spotlight on some of the most innovative artists from Latin America.”

“Much like the featured muralists in Instruments of Change, The Fullerton Museum Center seeks to engage, inform, inspire, and, when necessary, challenge the viewer,” says Kelly Chidester, curator for the Fullerton Museum Center. “We are excited to partner with Thinkspace to bring this socially conscious and timely exhibit to Fullerton as a celebration of art, culture and powerful storytelling.”

Instruments of Change will feature a diversity of artistic styles, ranging from photorealistic black and white portraiture to colorful, abstract works with indigenous aesthetics. Some artists in the show, such as Paola Delfín and Saner, have a track record of crafting intricately detailed, building-sized murals, while others like Zezao and Curiot often create work out of the public view in obscure locations like sewers and jungles.

The birthplace of the low-brow art movement, as well as a nexus of many cultures’ creatives, LA has become a destination for street artists over the past few decades. The unique art scene allowed many Hispanic-American graffiti artists to transcend the streets and thrive in fine art settings—Thinkspace Gallery being among them. Instruments of Change marks a new chapter in the story of street art’s evolution, and starts its next decade on a whole new level.

Instruments of Change will be on view at Fullerton Museum Center from November 24, 2019 to February 23, 2020. The museum is located at 301 N. Pomona Ave. Fullerton, California 92832.

THE PEREZ BROS’s “Cruise Night” Opening November 9th

THE PEREZ BROS
“Cruise Night”
Opening Reception:
Sat., Nov. 9th, 6-9 PM

The Perez Bros are identical twin brothers Alejandro and Vicente (born 1994) from South Gate, California. After graduating from South East High School, they attended the Otis College of Art and Design to pursue a degree in Fine Art, focusing on painting. At Otis is where they began working as a collaborative duo.

They were exposed to the car culture in Los Angeles at a very young age. Their father has been a part of a lowrider car club for as long as they can remember. The brothers are fascinated with the culture, from the cars to the models, from the people to the music. Through their paintings, they try and capture certain moments that they see when they attend car shows. Larger paintings seem to capture the mood and feeling of these car events, while smaller paintings tend to capture more intimate events. Through their paintings, they hope to make the viewer feel as if they were attending a car show, soaking in all the sites and sounds around them.

Stella Im Hultberg’s “Tiger Whiskers” Opening November 9th.

STELLA IM HULTBERG
“Tigers Whiskers”
Opening Reception:
Sat., Nov. 9th, 6-9 PM

Stella Im Hultberg was born in South Korea, raised in Seoul, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and later in California. She studied Industrial Design and worked as a product designer before serendipitously falling into the art world in late 2005.

Hultberg’s paintings are conceived in varying combinations of ink, watercolor, and oils on paper, wood and canvas. Her lyrical depictions of women combine decorative elements and graphic patterns, melding the figurative with the illustrative and a looser more painterly component. Ever present, this tension between the gestural and the controlled describe space in her dynamic compositions. Her palettes tend towards the monochromatic, moody and dark, but are punctuated by moments of contrast and vibrancy.

Her mannered figurative style, both elegant and selectively awkward, is at times reminiscent of early 20th century artists like Egon Schiele, Aubrey Beardsley or Gustav Klimt. Though beautiful, her figures are strangely displaced, subtly distorted, and at times melancholically encumbered with ornamentation, as seen in a recent series in which her nudes are laden with heavy blooms. Darkly beautiful, Hultberg’s feminine imaginary is an ambiguous terrain of melancholic desire.

Having grown up in Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan, she has a diverse blend of cultural influences to pull from. After a decade in NYC, she now lives (and works) in Portland OR with her daughter and husband.

Opening Reception of Brian Viveros’s “Tougher Than Leather” and Ken Flewellyn’s “SHINE”

Thank you to all those who came to the opening reception of Brian Viveros’s “Tougher Than Leather” and Ken Flewellyn’s “SHINE” last weekend. The gallery was packed to the brim with art lovers, and Viveros had a never-ending line of fans waiting to share their love of his work with him. He was signing books, posters, and taking pictures – overjoyed by the response to the work. Flewellyn’s second solo with the gallery, “SHINE” was a great pairing to Viversos’s “Tougher Than Leather” with a collaborative piece by the artists acting as the cherry on an already great show.

Click here to view “Tougher Than Leather” and here for “SHINE.”

Both exhibitions are on view now through November 2.