Separation, whether social, emotional, or intellectual, is the central theme of Dahae Kim’s photographic series Ghost Touch. At age 23, she is aware of her own self-discovery process, and incorporates it into her art. It is this examination that Kim attempts to convey in Ghost Touch. “There’s a disconnect‒a separation between the mind and the heart. This series is about bridging the gap between what I know and what I feel, facing headlong the truth of my own emotions. I wanted to discover me.”
Themes of discovery and distance run through Kim’s images, expressed by layers of texture that obscure the subjects of her images. In Seeking Hope, a woman is visible through the textured fog. Is she separated from the viewer, or the viewer from her? This ambiguity is the centerpiece of Kim’s self-exploration.
Kim takes an organized approach to creating her images, but recognizes that she doesn’t always start with a fixed vision.
I go into the studio kind of the same way an artist would go into a figure drawing session. You bring the sketchbook, the charcoal, the pencils, and the erasers. You know there’ll be a model. But you can’t really start until the model is in front of you to transfer visual thought into a tangible result. I go in with supplies, a camera, lights, fabrics, props, and a model, but what comes out is up for grabs.
Kim also finds herself inspired by both her religion and the beauty of the world, but not in a literal sense. “I do not stick crucifixes in my picture, nor do I attempt to ‘evangelize’ in my work. The color red isn’t used for atonement, and trees are not symbols of faith.” Because emotion serves as a constant theme in her work, the inspiration she finds comes from an emotional place. Kim believes that “[t]he work of an artist illuminates the character of that particular person.”
Images such as Lost or Being Watched are both highly personal and visually disorienting, with inexplicable gauze obscuring the subject almost completely. Despite her work being intensely personal, Kim nonetheless recognizes that she and her images are part of the broader contemporary photographic community.
Our art functions to speak and provoke thought, and we hope that maybe, just maybe, a word made visual can do just that. This generation of artists has that hope, a pure and desperate yearning to create in the same fashion as one thinks, where the point of translation becomes non-existent. I fit in there somewhere, I hope.
In the end Kim is not overtly concerned with the traditional markers of success. “I’m still trying to understand what a successful life looks like because money and riches, fame and glory all fade away.” She creates ‒ and continues to create ‒ to inspire herself and others. “That’s enough success for me, that people are moved to hope, even in places of confusion, and in the places of beauty, that there’d be hope.”
Dahae Kim’s series Ghost Touch was on view in The Kiernan Gallery from June 6 to July 14, 2012. It can be seen on our website under the Portfolio Showcase link.