Justin Kim – Long Island City, New York

Deep Springs Valley V (Full Moon), mixed media on paper, 44 x 60", 2013

Deep Springs Valley V (Full Moon), mixed media on paper, 44 x 60″, 2013

Briefly describe the work you do. 

I paint large, mixed media landscapes on paper. The subjects are specific sites from my personal history and travels.

On a formal level, I’m trying to do two things: 1. Mix different styles and approaches within each picture (showing how our perception of the world is constantly shifting). 2. Maintain a sense of illusion and deep space by establishing a physical point of view. These goals are potentially incompatible, but it keeps things interesting.

Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.

I’m mixed race. My father is first generation patrician Korean-American and my mother is second generation working-class Italian-American. I’m gay (and have been out for over 20 years). I’m also the kind of person who seeks out interesting experiences – living in different communities, meeting different kinds of people, working in different environments. From all of this, I’ve gained the ability to see things from a range of perspectives. It also makes me a person who looks for connections between things that seem completely unrelated.

In my work I’m incorporating lots of  elements into one piece and one point of view. Is it possible to create connections that didn’t exist before? Is it possible for different elements to coexist?  In my life and in my artistic practice I’m trying to bring unexpected and unrelated things together – integrating them to make the whole far greater than the sum of its parts.

Deep Springs Valley VIII (Water Truck), mixed media on paper, 44 x 60", 2014

Deep Springs Valley VIII (Water Truck), mixed media on paper, 44 x 60″, 2014

The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”

My studio practices is pretty traditional—lots of work building up an image, Lots of staring at the image and intuiting what to do next. The landscapes are definitely studio paintings (and not plein air). I construct them using a combination of sketches, reference photos and images projected onto the surface. At any given time I have between 5 and 10 pieces in process. When I reach an impasse with one, I put the painting away until I can approach it with a fresh pair of eyes. This works especially well in my current studio which is, to put it mildly, “spatially-challenged.”

What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?

I can’t really think of anything specific in terms of a role. Painting has forced me to be more resourceful, flexible and generous with myself than I’d imagined. It also gets more complex the more you do it.

When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?

I’m a morning person. Between 9 AM and 3PM (with a decent breakfast and 2 cups of coffee) I can get a lot done. Occasionally I find my second wind in the evening, but this is rare.

Deep Springs Valley VII (Green Shed), mixed media on paper, 44 x 60", 2014

Deep Springs Valley VII (Green Shed), mixed media on paper, 44 x 60″, 2014

How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?

It’s changed a lot. I’ve given myself more permission to experiment, try different techniques and approaches and worry less about consistency or how things look. By opening up, I’ve found a process that reflects much more of who I am and what interests me. If any aspect of the work is the same it’s how I draw. I tend to drag the brush across the surface, using friction to guide my hand. I’m most comfortable using a range of thickness of line and brushstroke, but I’m also constantly experimenting with this.

How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?

Here’s who / what has influenced me most over the past few years:

Writings: Schopenhauer, J.M. Coetzee

Artists: David Hockney, Sol LeWitt, Julie Mehretu. I interned with David Hockney while I was in college. Besides learning about the culture of the art world I got to watch him at work, which was incredible.

Pop Culture: I listen to podcasts while I’m working: Radio Lab, WTF, Invisibilia, etc. Some of this definitely gets absorbed into my consciousness. For example: Kathy Griffin talking about the long hard slog of finding her place in the world of comedy (to paraphrase): “Having a career is possible, but you have to stick to who you are and what you have to offer.

Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests? 

When I reach an impasse with the paintings or feel bogged down, I ask myself, “Do you really want to keep doing this? Do you want to commit to being a painter or not?” I’ve always answered yes, but by asking myself this question, I’m making a definitive choice instead of sticking with painting “because there’s nothing better to do.”


headshotBorn in Hartford, CT, Mr. Kim received a B.A. from Yale and an MFA from the American University in Washington, D.C. While at Yale, he worked as an intern for the artist David Hockney.

He has exhibited across the Northeast including: Denise Bibro, Brenda Taylor and Bowery Galleries in New York City, B.J. Spoke in Huntington, NY, The Oxbow Gallery in Northampton, MA, Manifest Gallery in Cincinnati, Jannotta Gallery at Smith College and Beard & Weil Galleries at Wheaton College in Norton, MA. Recent grants and awards include a Working Artist Grant (2014) and Best in Show Award by Andrew Russeth, Senior Editor at the New York Observer for the Art of the Northeast Competition. His work has been included in Studio Visit and Fresh Paint Magazines. He was also one of 20 artists selected to represent New York City in Artist Portfolio Magazine, Issue 15: LA vs. NY.

Mr. Kim has taught at Yale, Dartmouth, Smith College and Deep Springs College in CA.

studio image


All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission. 


About 365Artists/365Days

The purpose of this project is to introduce its readership to a diverse collection of art that is being produced at the national and international level. Our goal is to engage the public with information regarding a wide array of creative processes, and present the successes and failures that artists face from day to day. The collaborators hope that this project will become a source for exploring and experiencing contemporary art in all its forms.
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