New York

Korea In The Global Beauty Flow

by Liz on January 28, 2015

in Fashion


Fashion editorial from South Korean magazine Neighbor (2009)

Makeup is an interesting gauge of modernity.

At least, that’s what I thought after discovering the work of makeup artist Seong Hee Park, a South Korean beauty professional based in New York.

Park is an artist with the blush brush. She’s done work for major Condé Nast publications, ELLE magazine, and South Korean fashion editorials.

Elle Korea

Fashion editorial from Elle Korea (2012)

And, if you’re in New York, you can catch her lecture at the Korea Society, at 6 p.m.

Park knows a great deal about Korea’s beauty culture, having served at the forefront of its transformation for 12 years. What’s really illuminating though is her own transformation as she worked with scores of South Korean celebrities and models, including K-pop group Wonder Girls and TV star Yunjin Kim.

“Applying Western beauty (principles) to Korean actresses was not natural and even decreased their beauty,” Park told me by e-mail of a key realization she gained over time. She added that living and working in New York made her gain a renewed appreciation for a more natural look for Asian women.

Park’s professional realizations confirm broader themes of beauty globalization that have historical roots in Asia.

In Korea, for example, beauty standards of the West were vigorously pursued because of the influences of Hollywood after the Korean War. American media’s definition of beauty, such as the ideal of the blonde bombshell, was narrowly defined and was probably not congruent to preexisting notions of female beauty in Korea. But fair skin, while previously prized, became even more laden with meaning. It symbolized cleanliness, hygiene but perhaps most importantly – with postwar progress that emulated America’s.

Of course, beauty values have changed in Korea because of globalization and with it, a movement toward preserving cultural integrity.

Having been sold a Western concept of beauty for decades, in a boomerang effect South Korean cosmetics companies sometimes take an Eastern approach to the packaging and presentation of their own products. Could the tide be turning?

Sulwhasoo, for example, which Park recommends (“it’s my favorite Korean cosmetics brand”), is an upscale line of herbal-based products – that’s in trend with going green but also uses a traditional Korean ingredient, ginseng.

And if the popularity of South Korean skin care lines in the rest of Asia is any indication, it might just be a matter of time for Korean brands to enjoy a regular following stateside.

All photos courtesy of Seong Hee Park.


Laowai-Foreigner | Kraine Gallery

by Liz on September 21, 2012

in Art & Design

At reception night at Kraine Gallery's exhibit 'Laowai-Foreigner,' visitors were allowed to touch and interact with some of the art.

What’s the latest connection between China and New York?

After visiting the ‘Laowai-Foreigner’ exhibit at Kraine Gallery in the East Village, the answer was pretty clear. It’s art.

Curated by Cory Dixon of the New York Academy of Art, the tiny corridor nestled on the second floor of a walk-up building on East 4th street showcased seven artists: four Americans and three Chinese who participated in what Shanghai-based curator Rachel Marsden called a “Micro Residency of Art programme” over the course of 11 weeks.

In China, the term ‘Laowai’ is often used to refer to foreigners, and specifically Westerners who take up residence in China. Depending who you talk to, the term has different connotations. An editorial in the People’s Daily online refers to it as a “good-humored nickname,” a Wikipedia entry considers it “a casual and fairly neutral word.” In other circles the word is a cynical slang when used to refer to an alien or a foreigner.

Sven Muentel, a German expatriate based in China, offered over Twitter that the term is “neutral…just what people here say. You get used to it.”

But perhaps to reclaim what to some is a debasing epithet, the ongoing exhibit puts this Mandarin word for foreigner front and center in what the curators call a “visual conversation…that span(s) the globe from East to West.”

As I walked through the short-lived hallway and its red walls, I couldn’t help but notice the transcultural nature of the works. Just as Marsden writes the works were a display of a “love of low tech, hand crafted, image-based practices,” Nicolas Sanchez’s Moleskine sketchbook (seen below), lovingly filled with precise, ballpoint drawings of various personalities – both Chinese and Western – provided a gratifying illustration of her words. The works of other student-artists also provided measured metaphors of the earliest stages of transcultural negotiation and exploration.

Beautiful drawing by artist Nicolas Sanchez

On September 19, opening reception night, the exhibit invited a young and eclectic crowd of artists and art lovers. The adjacent KGB Bar buzzed with a growing crowd waiting for the screening of Andy Warhol’s ‘Made In China’, filmed in 1992 when the New York-based artist traveled from Hong Kong to the Forbidden City in Beijing.

So while there remains a great deal of uncertainty wrapped around the word ‘Laowai,’ it’s also a universal kind of uncertainty that accompanies the change and shift of identities in our world.

And for these New York artists who traveled to China to be both inspired and challenged by their new environment, their art and reflections speak for themselves.

‘Laowai-Foreigner’ exhibit at Kraine Gallery is running from September 19 to October 19, and features the works of artists Nicolas Sanchez, Megan Ewert, Kristy Gordon, Wang Yi, Huang Zhe, Cory Dixon, and Ian Cao. For more information see Kraine Gallery.


[FYI: There will be a free screening of Pearls Of The Far East (2011) on June 18, 2012 at 6:30 PM at Pratt Manhattan (144 West 14th Street, Second Floor, Room 213). Amy Guggenheim, Founder and Director of Global Cinema, has curated and produced nine film screenings. The series is co-presented with Pratt’s School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and there will be a Q&A with the film’s producer, Igor Szczurko. PS – I’ll be there!]

Can cinema reinvent Vietnam? That’s the question I asked myself after previewing Pearls Of The Far East, a beautiful film that floats a layer above reality. And by beautiful I mean seven tales set in timeless Edens that are the mountains and beaches of contemporary Vietnam.

Seven Vignettes, One Cinematic Experience

Cuong Ngo’s debut feature brings together distinct vignettes about forbidden desire and true love, stories filtered through the lens of sensitive, Vietnamese women protagonists. These women crave affection but seek it in unattainable lovers. They are torn between a sense of duty and the need to satisfy their own lust. All life stages are taken into consideration: childhood, the quarter life crisis, middle age, and married life. There’s a subdued, bittersweet undertone to the failed, romantic encounters. There’s also a prevailing anonymity to all of Ngo’s heroines, a trait that attributes each woman with both depth and distance: we rarely know their names but are introduced to their deepest desires. We feel we are on the receiving end of a fleeting glimpse of each life, lives we barely know, but then as we get closer, we feel the filmmaker is pulling us away to the next story.

A Different Vietnam

Vietnam in Pearls Of The Far East is stunning, breathtakingly beautiful. So are the actors populating the front and center of each plot. The busy streets of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh that may be more familiar to travelers are remarkably absent. Instead, it is the isolated beaches and lush, green mountains of the north that speak to the peace and serenity of Ngo’s cinematic Vietnam. Pearls Of The Far East allows the viewer to see Vietnam, far removed from the popularized, Hollywood image of the country as apocalyptic jungle, or symbol of failed American policy. Because as time marches on, and old memories are discarded for new ones, there’s a good chance filmmakers will seize the moment to tell a story that will resonate with an audience ready for something gratifyingly different.

And yes, we’re ready.

For more see here and here.

(Images via)


Do Ho Suh | Lehmann Maupin Gallery

by Liz on October 30, 2011

in Art & Design

Many Americans think of Koreans in the United States as diligent and capable newcomers who adjust quickly to their host country. Different, yes, but in a nation of differences and diversity, Koreans are just another stripe of color in an ever trendy mosaic. Do they have reservations about the new culture they must adapt to? Are they experiencing difficulties? No one knows, because no one ever bothers to ask them. No one, except for perhaps Korean artist Do Ho Suh, who resurfaced to transform elements of the autobiographical into both the artistic and the architectural at Lehmann Maupin Gallery.

As you can see from the photograph above, Suh created replicas of two buildings that have become fused thanks to a collison of two worlds, which took place when the artist first arrived in the United States in 1991 to attend the Rhode Island School of Design. The prewar brownstone replica represents the home he adopted in Providence, Rhode Island, and the hanok on the right depicts his childhood home in Korea with painstaking accuracy. According to the art narrative, his Korean home was lifted up by a tornado, transporting Suh to a strange but soon-to-be-familiar place called America. And the results are a vision to behold.

Details of hanok in Fallen Star 1/5, 2008-2011

Floor by floor of Fallen Star 1/5, 2008-2011

The tornado-driven crash landing has devastated the interior of the brownstone across all immediately adjacent floors. The damage is severe, even irreparable, but also void of catastrophic emotion. The rooms appear to be inhabited, and yet there are no people. All we have is silence, but a silence so indifferent it’s practically an ode to the ones who know that when a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, it really does not make a sound.

Suh is a remarkable artist whose intimate knowledge of cultural displacement has in many ways inspired my desire to become a better interpreter of transnational Asian culture and experience. Suh’s collision is a serious crisis, but I know all too well the greater crisis is our defiant disregard for our feelings of discontinuity and change. It’s a story that’s defined entire swathes of people but remain suppressed and unverbalized, until someone like Suh takes a stand and says, “You. This is you.” The fact that Suh is Korean and has intimate knowledge of Korean architecture made this exhibit feel all the more personal.

As for his art, I’ll let the visual outcome speak for itself.

Details of a kitchen

The attention to detail, such as in this bedroom, was simply mind-boggling.

Rear window

Visitors standing by Fallen Star 1/5, 2008-2011. Certainly gives you a sense of scale!

The parachute attached to Suh's childhood home. Definitely has echoes of his previous works.


When I first started this blog, I must have been tremendously naive, or at least under the impression that Asian-y events in New York were manageable, at least from a writer’s perspective. Of course, now I know better.

New York is positively Asiafied. It’s actually a challenge to curate great places and people, and reduce a month’s worth of events to one page. It’s also bewildering that some really terrific stuff gets totally ignored by mainstream media outlets! As usual, I’ve taken an avalanche of information for October and reduced it to reasonable a number, all in the vague hope it’s of some service to my readers.


{ 1 comment }

Asiafied NY: Issue 3

September 1, 2011

Well New York, this September marks the 10th anniversary of 9/11. A month of rememberance as we officially settle into fall, a season that’s also our fair city’s best, hurricanes, earthquakes, and financial fallouts not withstanding. But rain or shine, there will always be things to do, foods to try, and art to remember. Always.

Read the full article →

Prabal Gurung FW 2011

August 28, 2011

It’s interesting to think what scientists have proven to be true — that viewing a beautiful work of art can affect the brain as much as being in love. Apparently art triggers a surge of dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter, that results in feelings of pleasure. Perhaps even happiness. If that’s the case, I really should […]

Read the full article →

Yang Qian | Eli Klein Gallery

August 25, 2011

I have never met Yang Qian, but if I do, I wonder whether he, too, metamorphoses under ultra-violet light, the way George Bush, David Beckham, and Tiger Woods does in a series of his works that were on display at Eli Klein earlier this year. Yang’s paintings occupied the lower level of Mr. Klein’s gallery […]

Read the full article →

K Popped | Madison Gunst

August 18, 2011

    What is a star? And how are they different from mere mortals? Perhaps stars are mortals, blessed with heightened energy and a powerful dedication to their art. They live without fear, are always trying new things, and never give up easily. If so, a star was born this Tuesday in Central Park. And […]

Read the full article →

Liu Bolin | Eli Klein Gallery

August 8, 2011

As I considered a blog post about Chinese contemporary artist Liu Bolin, my mind was at a loss. What could I possibly add to what’s been said about Liu’s Hiding in the City series? Liu is an artist known the world over for his ingenious body of photographs, a man willing to stand patiently for […]

Read the full article →