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Art & Life with Kyong Burke

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kyong Burke.

Kyong, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I was born and raised in South Korea, then came to the U.S. in 1981. We moved around for a bit before settling in Katy in 1990. For the next twenty years, I split my time between my family and my job as a teacher’s assistant at a school for special needs children. I tried to make room for art whenever I could, and in my spare time, I taught myself watercolor and oil painting. I often painted for myself so that I could have original art to hang in my house.

By 2010, my kids were grown and out of the house. Suddenly, I found myself with plenty of time and stability to devote to my art. I decided to sign up for a figure drawing class at the Glassell School of Art. After a lifetime of teaching myself, this class marked the beginning of my formal art education. It turned out to be a life-changing decision. After that first class, I began to pursue a full-time career as an artist. Over the next five years, I learned from the incredible teachers at Glassell, connected with other artists, and developed new skills and techniques. My time at Glassell really shaped the approach I take with my art.

Today, I have a studio in the Sawyer Yards art community in Houston, which allows me to market my paintings and network with all kinds of artists. Since moving into this space, my opportunities have truly expanded. I’ve been involved in fundraising for charities, and my work’s been exhibited in Texas, New York, Illinois, and New Jersey, as well as in private collections.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I started painting for my own pleasure, and no matter where my life takes me, I always return to the canvas. Because I taught myself to paint using oil and watercolors, that was my comfort zone for many years. My earlier work was rooted in realism, and though these earlier pieces are very direct—mainly flowers, portraits, and landscapes—my subjects were all meaningful to me. My portraits represented family, friends, people I encountered, or people who influenced me, and my landscapes were often places I’d visited. Every time I traveled to someplace new, I would take hundreds of pictures for my paintings. Many afternoons were spent looking through these pictures to pick the perfect subject to paint.

My classes at Glassell School of Art taught me to let go, loosen up, and experiment with different techniques and media. I developed a love for acrylic paint, because of its versatility, and today, most of my paintings are acrylic on canvas. I like to apply watercolor techniques to my acrylic paints and take advantage of the textures of the canvas. The first marks, brush strokes, and colors I leave on my canvases are thoughtfully planned, but I’m not so strict with my paintings anymore. I let the composition adapt and change as I go, and there’s never a guarantee that the final piece will look just as I’ve planned.

Today, my art looks very different from the watercolors I started with, but I think I still hold true to my roots in many ways. Often, I direct focus on my subject with a very direct, realism approach. Once the viewer takes in the rest of the painting, they will see the abstract elements all around the subject. My inspirations are from memories and my surroundings, what I see and feel, and I try to blend real with the abstract to express it in a contemporary way. But no matter my intentions when I begin a painting, I like my viewers to come to their own conclusions. To me, it isn’t important that the viewers might look at my paintings and know the meaning I think they should have. I’d rather they find their own feelings and interpretations in my paintings. I’ll always continue to paint because that’s the best way to appreciate my life and the environment I am living in.

What responsibility, if any, do you think artists have to use their art to help alleviate problems faced by others? Has your art been affected by issues you’ve concerned about?
I don’t think the role of artists has changed. Art has always been political and challenging, no matter the time. What’s changed is the artist’s ability to reach audiences around the world and get their art, and its message, out with a greater speed than ever before. Conversations happen much more quickly, for better and worse. Sometimes, it’s important for both the artist and their audience to take a moment to reflect before reacting.

My own art is inspired by experiences on a much smaller scale. Memories, my personal environment, and the people in my life. In that way, it’s as influenced as anybody else by the events of the world. But, I don’t make direct commentary with my art. Rather, I’d prefer the viewer to make their own, personal, connections with my work, and come to their own conclusions.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
My studio is located at the Sawyer Yards campus of Silver Street Studios. You can find me at Studio 321, 2000 Edwards St., Houston, TX 77007. You can also view my work at the Serrano Gallery (www.serranogallery.com). My studio is open weekdays, and you can drop by—just call or text me first! I’m also at the studio every second Saturday of the month, and during events at the Sawyer Yards campus. I also have a website where you can find most of my paintings, and a shop where you can purchase scarves, bags, and shirts displaying my art. You can email me to inquire about high-quality limited and signed prints.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 2000 Edwards st.
    studio #321
    Houston, TX 77007
  • Website: www.kyongburke.com
  • Phone: 2813898347
  • Email: kyongburke@gmail.com
  • Instagram: @kyongburke
  • Facebook: @PaintingsbyKyongBurke
  • Twitter: @KyongBurkeArt

Image Credit:
Kyong Burke

Getting in touch: VoyageHouston is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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