SIUC instructor’s art gains notoriety across nation

By Gus Bode

Work has garnered numerous awards, praise from colleagues

A dedication to art and a passion for color have brightened the career of an instructor at SIUC.

The unique style of Cheonae Kim, an instructor in the School of Art and Design at the University, has taken the artist to various locations in the United States, as well as the world.


Although Kim, a native of Korea, spent the majority of her life in the country, she does not consider herself a “Korean artist.” In fact, according to Kim, her style does not fall under the particular label or influence of any particular country, only the influence of color.

“Cheonae Kim’s work uses formal constructionist means to explore color and structure from both the physiological and aesthetic basis,” said Joel Feldman, a professor in the School of Art and Design, who has watched Kim’s work progress throughout her time at SIUC.

Kim said she does not consider any artist a direct influence and is most influenced by music and the power of color. She cited 20th century contemporary music as a primary influence of her work.

“I focus on color and how I can create a certain harmony,” Kim said. “It also has a very close connection with music. My work is influenced by music more than visual aspects. Color represents sound and has a very close relationship with certain forms of sound.”

Kim, a graduate of SIUC who teaches painting and drawing, describes herself as a geometric abstract painter with a concentration on grid-based form and the relationship of color. She has practiced this art for approximately 20 years at the University as both a student and a teacher, but her skill has taken her to a variety of places.

Her most recent work is an example of color relationships on a grand scale. After submitting a proposal, Kim was selected from a large group of artists to redesign the exterior of a police department in Chicago.

The police department, which is located on North Milwaukee Avenue, wanted to revamp the appearance of the building, which is certainly what Kim’s use of color accomplished upon her completion of her work.


The exterior of the building, which was completed in June of this year, provides onlookers with a non-typical, multi-colored vision many would not anticipate to find on a police station.

Most recently, Kim was chosen for a six-week visit to Spain with other artists as a part of a residency.

While on this trip, Kim said she was able to witness and absorb the art of a country known for artistic influence. She became entranced by the beauty of Spain, a visual aspect that presented the artist with somewhat of a challenge.

“It’s an incredible place,” Kim said. “Beauty as a concept is very important there, and I was very challenged in trying to show all of the natural beauty out there in my work.”

While the project in Chicago and her experiences in Spain are Kim’s largest accomplishments, they are certainly not the only highlights of her career. Her work has been shown across the nation, including “Interventions” in the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Margaret Thatcher Projects in New York, as well as the Hammer Project at UCLA in 2000.

Upcoming shows include one in New Hampshire in August, one in Scottsdale, Ariz. and another in San Francisco, where she will design an area of the Laguna Honda hospital complex.

In addition to the opportunities she has received, Kim’s work has earned her a great deal of praise, including the Outstanding Artist Award, and a place in the SIUC chapter of the honor society of Phi Kappa Phi.

In addition to the awards she has won, according to those who have seen her work, Kim has achieved success through showcasing a rare form of art.

“The most interesting development she has made are the public commissions, which is something that returns to the origins of the 20th century,” said Peter Chametzky, an associate professor of Art and History in the School of Art and Design, who has known Kim for the past five years. “Displaying this type of work in public changes how the world looks and people’s perception and visions.

“It helps people to recognize the complexity within simple relationships. Something does not have to look complex to show complexity.”

Kim’s ability and dedication, according to her co-workers, is guaranteed to earn her success far beyond that which she has already earned.

“She takes seriously her ethical responsibility to art,” Feldman said. “Her work has grown considerably over the years, and she is well on her way to developing an international reputation as an artist.”

Reporter Jessica Yorama can be reached [email protected]