An array of rabbit sculptures unveiled by artist Park Ad-jong for her solo show ``To Thine Own Self Be True'' at Art Link Gallery, Anguk-dong, Jongno. / Courtesy of the artist
By Cathy Rose A. Garcia
Looking at the white and gentle-looking rabbit sculptures inside Art Link gallery, one might be tempted to exclaim, ``How cute!'' For artist Park Ad-jong, the furry animal holds a special meaning for her that does not have anything to do with its cute appearance.
``When people talk about bunnies, they think of rebirth. Bunnies make a lot of babies, so it's about new beginnings. For me, bunnies represent new life. And this is the same for me, it's about starting over and rebirth,'' she told The Korea Times at the Art Link Gallery, Anguk-dong, Jongno, Wednesday.
Park is showing her rabbit and egg sculptures at a solo show ``To Thine Own Self Be True.'' The title, a line taken from Shakespeare's "Hamlet," is sort of a mantra for the artist, who has had a difficult last two years.
As problems weighed heavily on her mind, Park, a professor at Ewha Womans University, decided to work even harder by putting all of her energy into art.
``I had some legal problems last year. There were some trust issues with some people at school. (Through my art) I just wanted to say what the truth in life is. I know the truth. God knows the truth, but other people just won't tell the truth,'' she said.
In one sculpture, the rabbit is shown with one paw up, as if to say, ``Hi.'' But what Park actually intended was to show a scene from a courtroom.
``It's funny that people think the rabbit is saying, `Hi,' but actually it's like being sworn in before the court,'' she said, recalling her own experience in court.
To the ordinary observer, the bunny sculptures might have benign, if not, sweet expressions. For Park, the bunnies' expressions range from anger to frustration, reflecting her own emotional turmoil. She added some whimsical touches to them, like a funky pair of eyeglasses or a bow tie.
There's also a ``sweet'' dark brown rabbit, which Park painted with a thin layer of real chocolate. A sugary scent lingers in the air, almost tempting visitors to pick up a piece of the chocolate candy scattered on the floor.
In contrast to the rabbits, Park's egg sculptures, with their realistic eggshell texture, have an air of mystery.
``The reason I made these eggs is because when I was in the U.S., I felt like I broke through the shell and came out. But when I went back to Korea, it felt like people kept saying I should go back inside the egg … I already experienced freedom in the U.S., and now I felt like I should hide myself again,'' she said.
However, working on the sculptures for the exhibition proved to be a cathartic process for Park. ```To thine own self be true' means that no matter what the obstacles, we must stay true to our beliefs and values ― to be honest with ourselves in the face of adversity. No matter how much we may suffer and be beaten, we can always have a rebirth like the phoenix, or in a gentler way, like the rabbit and the egg,'' she said.
The exhibition runs through Dec. 31. To get to the gallery, get off at Anguk station Line 3, exit 1, turn right at the first corner and go straight. When you reach the fork in the road, turn left. Art Link is on your left. Visit www.artlink.co.kr or call (02) 738-0738.