Are You Happy? (행복하니?)
Unable to embrace an identity as a Korean-American adoptee, artist Kimberly Young Sun has recently taken on a new series of work to express themes of adoption, identity, and self-questioning.
This first installment of work, titled “Are You Happy? (행복하니?)”, serves as an open letter to her birth mother, consisting entirely of questions collected in the artist’s mind over years of dealing with the issue of not having any answers or contact with her kin.
It is common in Korean adoption for there to be little information in regards to the child’s family, ranging from their medical history, to names and photographs. Struggling to identify, and holding onto legal paperwork and medical records from her birth, Kimberly has only been able to construct assumptions, having only a keyhole-sized look into her lineage.
"Are You Happy?” is written in the artist’s first language. This English letter is presented alongside a letter translated into the Korean alphabet, Hangul. Kimberly used Google Translate, which resulted in a slew of formal and informal communications. As a letter intended to be directed to her birth mother, an elder she has never met, the translation would come across in Korean culture as rude, inappropriate, and offensive. The artist’s intention is to convey her frustration and fear in not being able to communicate with someone who shares the same blood as her.
Accompanying the installation is a watercolor painting, titled “Mandala”. In her previous series of works, Kimberly has worked with mandalas in an effort to connect with her heritage and roots in line with buddhist philosophy. This new mandala serves as an act of meditation, created immediately in reaction to the release of years of internalized and unspoken emotions, as carried into her letter.