Syracuse Stage is seeking talented local youth actors to audition for the role of Ivanka in its upcoming production of “Once,” directed by Melissa Crespo. Auditioners should note that the production schedule for “Once” includes morning student matinees in addition to…
Light Work Presents Sophia Chai’s ‘Character Space’ Exhibition
Debuting at Light Work on Friday, Jan. 19, is Sophia Chai’s “Character Space.” The exhibition is comprised of photographs that are a return to Chai’s mother tongue, Korean. In these studio-made images, Chai references these written characters and enacts three key ideas of language, optics and photography.
An opening reception will take place in the Kathleen O. Ellis Gallery at Light Work on Thursday, April 4, from 6-7 p.m. There will be a public lecture beforehand in Watson Theater from 5-6 p.m. The exhibition will run through Friday, May 17.
This event is part of the Syracuse University Humanities Center’s 20th annual Syracuse Symposium, focused on a “Landscapes” theme for 2023-24.
“While being carried on the back of my mother in our neighborhood of Busan, I would point at the signs and repeat the words that Mom would read to me,” says Chai. “Soon I was able to read without understanding all of the words. The ease of learning to read the Korean alphabet is because there is a certain logic. The shapes of the vowel characteristics, for instance, correlate with how open or closed you could make the inside space of your mouth in making each word. Each character is a picture diagram of the space inside the mouth.”
In 1987, Chai immigrated to New York City from South Korea as a teenager without knowing English. Looking back, she has described that experience as feeling untethered to any internal compass that she could use to navigate her place in a new country with a new language. She visually explains these experiences by reinterpreting the Korean language’s characters in photographs that enable us to see the contradictions of visual and verbal communication. Her images rest in the space between intellect and intuition.
Chai’s curiosity about the interior space of her tool—the large format camera, comparable to the interior space of a mouth—leads to the idea of the camera obscura, a darkened room with a small opening to the world. Chai uses optics (focal length, perspective, perception and magnification) to pin down the marks, rubbings and paintings on her studio walls. The overall effect is a collage of ideas, with an efficient yet complicated economy of picture making with intentional gaps. These gaps can describe the moment right before the sound of a word comes out of the interior space of the mouth. One’s mouth may understand and sound out words, but one’s conscious knowledge of their meaning may not be fully there yet. This liminal space is the punctuated strength and slippery ambiguity of her photographs.
Chai is an artist who remains open and disciplined, committing to the mindset of the child at odds with that of the adult. The photographs born from this are restrained but not withholding.
About the Artist
Sophia Chai was born in Busan, South Korea. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in chemistry from the University of Chicago and earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Chai has presented her work widely at sites including the Bronx Museum of the Arts, Knockdown Center and multiple galleries. The city of Rochester and Destination Medical Center in Minnesota have commissioned her first permanent public outdoor art project to be completed in early 2024. Chai is represented by Hair+Nails Gallery. She lives and works in Rochester, MN.
Story by Cali Banks, communications coordinator, Light Work