award-winning South Korean sculptor moves family to Colorado Springs | Culture & Leisure


Inside a clean, bright studio on the southwest side of Colorado Springs, Byeongdoo Moon creates sculptures that sink deep into the hearts of residents.

In one corner stands a room that will be familiar to any downtown regular – a large stainless steel deer, with antlers stretching upward, turning into long branches with leaves. A small bird perches on its posterior end. And if you look closely enough, you will see the steel cactus that lives inside the torso of the deer. A similar version of the deer stands in the middle of Colorado and Cascade avenues.

In the other corner of Moon’s studio, a towering sculpture of a woman with a puppet component gazes into the room. Entitled “Your Place”, it is about feminism and breaking the glass ceiling.

The internationally renowned and award-winning artist’s stainless steel sculptures speak volumes, but there is a central question at the heart of his work: what is visible and what is invisible?

“The whole room is made of boundaries,” writes the South Korean sculptor in an artist statement about his intricate works. “Borders allow us to see in our imagination, between what is and what is not. “

In a courageous leap and a multi-year process to obtain a U.S. visa, the artist moved her family to Colorado Springs in late November. He became fascinated by the thirsty city of art after his first piece, the aforementioned stag, “I Dreamed of Being a Tree,” was accepted into the internationally renowned Street Art, an exhibition of sculpture in open air that draws visitors to the city center all year round. His third piece for the program, “Air or Water”, was recently hung from the facade of the Plaza of the Rockies building.

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“I was delighted that our community has proven to be attractive to an artist of this caliber,” said Claire Swinford, CEO of Downtown Ventures. “He has a fan club, for sure. When I tell people he lives here, the joy on their faces indicates that Colorado Springs is a special place, and for the artist to see that and want to be a part of it, it feels good, especially for a community. with a strong artistic tradition which is neglected in favor of other things that make the city unique.

A presence in the city center

On the other side of the globe, Moon helped create a more alluring landscape in the springs. His first piece was so dazzling that the city acquired it for its permanent art collection the following year.

And then came the 2018 Art on the Streets play, “You, Light as a Cloud,” the giant cat perched next to a snipe on a bench near Boulder Crescent Park. This summer, “Air or Water” features two large stainless steel fish swimming in a circle around each other.

“My work ‘Air or Water’ experiences a space where air turns into water,” Moon wrote in her artist statement. “It’s a story of fish sharing water and people sharing air, and both share the same planet. You will be able to feel the air and water through the fish, like swimming in the air. J hope people can feel the world we share together.

While the ending is happy, there were some issues along the way. The first two of Moon’s three pieces have been vandalized. At first, a weekend reveler decided to hang one of the deer’s antlers, warping it. It was disappointing, but a relatively easy fix, Swinford said. It was more disheartening the following year when someone snatched the “You, Light as a Cloud” snipe and ran away.

Distraught locals wrote letters, telling Moon they loved his artwork and apologizing for the vandalism: “I’m so sorry that someone was so selfish that they vandalized the beautiful sculpture you loaned. to our city. “You, Light as a Cloud” was my favorite piece from this year’s installation (Art on the Streets). I was intrigued by the intricate thread work, but loved the apparent friendship captured even more. Your works of art have given me hope that many supposed “enemies” could one day come together and be friends. Please accept my apologies on behalf of the selfish and thoughtless person who damaged your magnificent work of art, ”wrote resident Nancy Wallace.

Moon’s response was generous – he created a new flock of Colorado-specific birds, stuffed them in his suitcase, and flew to the springs to tie them up. And in the midst of it all, the original snipe was found under a bush in Monument Valley Park and returned. While he was disappointed with the vandalism, love letters from the audience filled his heart.

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“He (Moon) said they had a legend about the snipe he put in the sculpture,” Swinford said. “He flies like a youngster and doesn’t land until he’s ready to end his life. It continues to fly supported by other birds. This is how it rests. He said the people of Colorado Springs supported him because he portrayed Colorado birds supporting snipe. It was a lovely feeling.

The missing snipe revealed to Moon a city with a rich artistic and cultural community that supported him. He was already a fan of the area, after a visit to install his first sculpture, but the outpouring of admiration solidified his decision to relocate his family.

“I was surprised at how much my work was loved by the people of the city,” said Moon, translated by his 19-year-old son, Ju Whan. “Koreans are always busy taking care of each other and don’t have time to enjoy work. Here, people love the work. They walk into the studio to say they love the job.

Path to greatness

You’ll know Moon’s studio through the giant stainless steel cat guarding the front door. But it’s not just Moon’s studio. His wife, Hyewon Sim, is also an artist. Inside the front door is his textile art workshop. Your attention is immediately captured by two pieces of navy blue and off-white fabric art, reminiscent of octopus tentacles. The pieces are a tribute to his mother, who died two weeks before the family moved to America. On another wall are sophisticated ink drawings of flowers and their roots.

Turn the corner into a small gallery and you are among Moon’s small stainless steel pieces. A dry, rotten apple with a long stalk and a core is exposed. Two smaller versions of fresh apples perch nearby. And there is a sculpture of a sweet potato with roots. It’s alive, says Moon. It continues to grow while everything else dies, like meat.

In the larger space, Moon pays daily attention to his pieces, which live around the world in Australia, China, Hong Kong and Denmark. Colorado is the only state in the United States to house his sculptures. While working, he listens to New Orleans jazz, Nina Simone, Diahann Carroll and Édith Piaf, music he discovered while studying the history of Western art.

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His creativity flourished in college, when he drew cartoons and science fiction illustrations, but he dreamed of being a scientist. He was curious about how things worked. Eventually he turned this thirst for scientific knowledge into art and started drawing his questions on anything that made him curious. He graduated with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in sculpture and started building his giant public works of art at age 25.

“I’ve always wanted to communicate through public art,” Moon said. “Work has to have a size to have an impact on the outside. “

His lifelong love of science is evident in his subjects: trees, animals, the natural world.

“These are items with a long history, generations,” Moon said. “Through objects, I think of a very long time. I wish that when people see the trunk of an elephant, they think how long it took to have these shapes, and through that they feel their beauty.

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