IE: Scent has a tendency to bring back memories and trigger strong emotional responses. Was there anything that had this effect upon returning?
ML: I’ve been thinking a lot about the various shapes memory can take. I don’t think all memories are remembered in the same way. I can’t recall Korea in the same way I can remember what I ate for breakfast. I don’t think all memory is obvious; it imprints itself in sometimes unusual ways (as you mentioned in scent for example). That is all to say that my memories of Korea are obscure and non-visual. They are steeped in the stories I was told through adoption paperwork and photographs. It was definitely emotionally overwhelming, and my first response wasn’t so much a memory, but rather the experience of knowing that I had returned to a meaningful place.
IE: What about food? Did you rediscover any comfort food? Were you reacquainted with any snacks that made their way back with you?
ML: Rice! Since returning to the U.S., it has become a staple in our family dinners. Also, jap chae, which was one of my favorite Korean foods as a kid. It is also a dish that my picky four year old will eat. As a kid I used to eat prawn chips- shrimp flavored rice snacks that look like french fries. They disgust my family, but I absolutely love them.
IE: Can you tell us about the roots of your visual language? What artists were you looking at earlier in your career?
ML: I suppose my visual language comes from my Chicago roots. My mom went to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the mid 60’s, so as a painter I’m drawn to that history. One of my closest mentors in graduate school was John Dilg, who also has ties to the region. The Chicago Imagists continue to be a significant influence on me, particularly in their conversation with surrealism and collage-like image building. Earlier in my career I was really attracted to exactitude and precision. To return to color- the “hard” edge between two opaque colors enchanted me. Ellsworth Kelly, Tomma Abts, Sophie-Tauber Arp, are a few folks that come to mind when I think of my earliest work.