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Memory and Grief in Soomin Ham’s “Sound of Butterfly”

Soomin Ham
24 photos from the “Frozen Moment” series by Soomin Ham.

Sound of Butterfly
by Soomin Ham
November 9–December 4, 2016
Opening reception: November 10, 6:30–8:00 pm

(Read the DCist review: “The Art League is an intimate space for this affecting, gut-wrenching work, and I highly recommend making the trip to Alexandria to see it.”)

When you’re in a reflective mood, an art exhibit can be the perfect place to find some peace and quiet.

This month, the solo room in our gallery is hosting a deeply personal exhibit of photography, video, and sound pieces that tell the story of the artist’s mother’s life, depression, and death. Soomin Ham’s “Sound of Butterfly” is composed of four series:

  • Frozen Moment: This photography series, pictured at the top of the post, started with photographs of objects and places related to Ham’s mother. Those original photographs were frozen under ice and re-photographed on a lightbox, resulting in the prints you see in the exhibit.
  • Back to Heaven: This photography series, including The Shy Girl, below, follows a similar progression, tying together process, memory, and subject matter. Family photos were printed onto rice paper, repeatedly washed and dried, and finally placed outside and rephotographed during snowfall. These soft, faded images are the result.
The Shy Girl by Soomin Ham
The Shy Girl by Soomin Ham
  • Sound of Butterfly: In this titular video and sound piece, Ham combines her happiest childhood memories — in the form of family movies and ancestral Korean rituals — with music, for a dreamlike, contemplative piece.
  • Silent Echo: This counterpart to the happy memories of Sound of Butterfly focuses on Ham’s mother’s depression and how it affected her family. It centers around the voices of Ham and her family, both in narration and in recordings from Ham’s mother’s answering machine.
Still from Sound of Butterfly by Soomin Ham
Still from Sound of Butterfly by Soomin Ham
Still from Silent Echo by Soomin Ham
Still from Silent Echo by Soomin Ham

“Sound of Butterfly” is open through Sunday, December 4, 2016.

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