Meet Naomi Cho, a curious, thoughtful St. John’s University student whose promising career has gained a significant edge through her participation in Queens Council on the Arts’ HS2AS (High School to Art School) program.
So, tell us what you’re currently working on?
Concluding my first year in college, I’ve just ingested a large amount of information; learning new techniques, programs, materials, and styles that I have yet to dabble in, and experimenting further, which is exciting. For example, in one of my classes I’m working on a ten-second stop-motion animation with paper construction. During the next few months, I hope to start on a more sculptural, 3D direction by creating pieces that were inspired by artist Petah Coyne. It’s still in process, but I hope to convey ideas of creation, organic versus the manufactured. It’s open to change as time goes on.
Were you always interested in art as a child? What are some of your earliest memories?
Both of my parents were quite creative. When I moved to a new school in second grade, I was known as the ‘new girl who could draw dolphins very well.’ My earliest memory is when I received my first set of Prismacolor colored pencils—a 48-color set—around age six. I had never seen so many different colors and shades of blues or yellows in one box, nor had I ever owned something that was higher quality than broken Crayola crayons. I remember thinking at that age that I was a professional artist.
You are still so young, so the fact you are this focused is incredible. When did you realize you wanted your career to revolve around art?
The HS2AS program helped open up the doors to the many varieties of studies one could pursue in art, as well as introduced me to artists actually in the field. I learned that I was passionate about creating conceptual work, and that artists really did ‘exist’ and I admired them. Ai Weiwei has been making headlines for being an artist and activist in China. I watched a video about him called Whose Afraid of Ai Weiwei. His art was like a clicking moment where everything I learned made sense. In the video, he had a piece of simple Excel spreadsheets with names. That’s not art, I thought, it’s not even pictorial. But as the video continued on, it explained that these names were names of children who had died in an earthquake in China due to the poorly built buildings, not regulated by the government. However, these names were not released by the government, which prompted Ai Weiwei to get the community involved. He researched and gave locals cameras to put pressure on the government officials, and eventually was able to get over a thousand names. Ai Weiwei’s work gave a voice to the common person: to the student going to school, to the wife making dinner, to the man in the cubicle. They could all relate. I realized that art was so much more than what I knew. It wasn’t just something that hung up on walls and then was taken down, soon to be forgotten. No, it was a living, breathing movement. I realized that I wanted to create work that provoked feelings and emotion; work with the purpose of trying to make a point, to try to say something.
Where do you find inspiration for your art?
I enjoy watching PBS’ Art21 Videos and reading about contemporary artists and events. I am also inspired by classmates and friends who work alongside me creating art.
Why do you feel compelled to do what you do?
I feel that the way I understand information best is by physically seeing it. For example, when given directions to a location, I always ask for people to draw it out for me. Therefore, the way that I also best can convey information is visually. The information can vary from emotions or facts that I want to bring up.