In her current body of work, Jane Park Wells combines her long-standing approach of working within self-imposed grid systems, with a tribute to Korean and American cultural traditions. Three large scale paintings make reference to different forms of traditional Korean dance. The various dances are associated with farming traditions, class struggles and the roles women have historically played in the cultural dynamics of Korea, both past and present; in Korea and America. Ganggangsullae, for example, began 5,000 years ago and was performed by women to encourage an abundant harvest. Pungmul was traditionally a celebration of farmland and later, when it was forbidden during Japanese colonial rule, became a symbol of opposition to Japanese restrictions.
Wells adapts these cultural practices into her work both in a physical and narrative manner. A multi-paneled figurative piece illustrates the Ganggangsuallae dance in a monumental 11-foot long piece, while abstract paintings with calligraphic elements allude to the organic, swirling movements of dancers. The abstract paintings are further layered with collaged newspaper images of Korean female countenances and agricultural products.
The second chapter of the exhibition includes work inspired by American quilting. These works are also created using a grid system but take a much more hard edge approach than the dance-inspired paintings. In this series, titled Reflections, Wells creates wood-based works which follow a quintessential American quilting pattern called ‘log cabin’, where rectilinear forms are arranged in a stepped formation.
Through her two overlapping approaches, Wells joins narratives of East and West and injects the work with her own biographical narrative. Two different cultural customs associated with female bonding, creativity and expression are brought together by Wells, who, as a native of Korea and resident of America is immersed in dual ethnic and cultural identity.
Jane Park Wells received her art education from Scripps College (BFA) and Claremont Graduate University (MFA).