There is Peace Like A River: Gyun Hur @ SCAD Museum of Art
“Thinking about going back to Georgia with a new body of work during this very intimate time of my life, I thought deeply about how to bring this tenderness and love I feel while processing trauma and loss. I think Savannah as a place holds that duality as well.” Those are the words of the truly interdisciplinary artist Gyun Hur, who graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design with an MFA in sculpture and will be showing her work at the SCAD Museum of Art, a teaching museum housed in a National Historical Landmark building renowned for its permanent collection, as well as ongoing exhibitions of artwork by contemporary international artists. It’s not surprising that Savannah speaks to this artist. While it was once the site of one of the largest sales of enslaved people, Union General David Hunter issued an emancipation proclamation freeing them and it is also the home of First African Baptist, the oldest Black Church in America. Portions of the Savannah River flow through archeological digs, while the city is among the most growing and thriving in the country. In fact, Gyun Hur speaks of her parents born during the Korean War during what she calls a “tumultuous time as a split nation that was collectively healing.”
Her current show at SCAD MOA, There is Peace Like a River, references an African-American spiritual sung in Korean churches, which reflects her own history, as well as the wellspring of this body of work. Hand-blown glass vessels filled with Savannah River water are installed marking the score of “There is Peace Like a River,” while hand-shredded silk flowers are held inside a baptismal font sculpture nearby. Hand-shredded silk flowers have been a primary source material in Hur’s practice for years. “Their artificiality resists the idea of decay which I find quite fascinating, especially when my work speaks so specifically on the fleeting nature of life,” she explains and noting how the laborious work of tattering the flowers reminds her of arduous toil her parents constantly washing and mending at their dry cleaners. By making work with her hands she joins “this intensive journey we all go through as evolving individuals.”
“During the pandemic,” she remembers, “I drew myself near to the river as a place and symbol to process my grief and wanted to find a sculptural form that would hold river water in my installation works.” While attending the Pilchuck Glass School she became captivated by the quality of the medium, its ability to be both liquid and dense, and so, the perfect sculptural form, as is the River, for centuries a sacred place of baptism and burial, a place to “continue my exploration of an emotional landscape that holds grief and beauty,” —Gwynned Vitello
Gyun Hur’s There is Peace Like A River will be on view at SCAD MOA through May 15, 2023. This article was originally published in our Spring 2023 Quarterly.