Everything’s coming up, well, if not roses, then silk flowers for Gyun Hur. The artist, who laboriously constructs colorful carpets of shredded cemetery bouquets as meditations on memory, culture and family ties, won the Hudgens Prize on November 30, which comes with a $50,000 check and a solo show at the Jacqueline Casey Hudgens Center for the Arts next year.
Just a week later, Hur left for a month-long residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and she’s preparing for her largest and most public installation yet, at Atlanta’s Lenox Square mall in March.
This is quite a trajectory for an artist who’s one year out of graduate school. (Not surprisingly, Maya Lin, who won the commission to create the Vietnam Veterans Memorial while still in school, is one of Hur’s heroes.) But, like her art, Hur is wise beyond her 27 years. She understands the need to be thoughtful about how to spend such a large sum.
She plans to use some of it to finance her Hudgens solo show. “The money will allow me to do something extending the scale and involving the architecture in ways that I couldn’t do before,” Hur said in a phone conversation from Virginia. “I love working with space; now I can go wherever my imagination takes me.
“Right now, I can’t get enough of silk flowers; they’re so loaded with content,” she said. “And I’m thinking about using other parts of the flowers.”
The artist, who left Korea at 13 when her family immigrated to Atlanta, wants to go back. She wants to visit her grandmothers, one of whom is 90, and explore her homeland, which she hasn’t visited since she was a teenager. This time it will be with a little more intention, she said: it’s been so long that she fears that her memories, which along with the pain of separation loom so large in her creative life, have become fantasies.
Hur has already given some of the money to her parents, who are steadfast partners in her art practice. They participate in the intensive labor required to pull apart the flowers, shred them and sort them by color, as well as in the painstaking process of laying them in precise stripes. Her mother, who recently retired from the family dry cleaning business, will be spending six to eight hours a day preparing flowers for the 16-by-36-foot Lenox Square piece, commissioned by Flux Projects.
Her parents’ involvement is part of the content, an expression of the importance of the family unit in her native culture. “I want them to be a part of the work because it’s so meaningful to me,” Hur said.
But she expressed concern about how the hard and tedious labor affects their health. This adds another layer to the theme of vulnerability, inherent in the fragility of the material and its installation in open space, in her work.
Hur is also thinking about ways to share the wealth. “I’ve been very fortunate and experience a lot of generosity; I’d like to give back in some way,” she said.