Color Freak: Jina Kim brings the Rose to life with a world of patterns, bright pops of color all her own

By on January 31, 2018

This is (part of) the Colorfreak Tribespeople world, brought to life by Colorfreak Jina.

When you walk into the Rose starting Friday, you’ll enter another world: the Colorfreak World. It is home to the Colorfreak Tribespeople, indigenous people from around the world who are dressed, draped and adorned in bright colored patterns.

This is the world Colorfreak Jina, or Jina Kim, created in her mind. She brings it to life with her paintings.

Kim was always drawing as a child in Seoul, South Korea. She was shy and wherever she went she’d find a quiet corner to sit and draw. If she didn’t have paper she drew on her hand, or her clothes, or even the wall. Her parents quickly learned to make sure she always carried paper.

Kim was also always interested in indigenous people from around the world, and tribal art and patterns. As a kid, she read books about indigenous people from other continents. She also always loved color.

Kim was about 19 years old when she picked up a photo of a woman from an indigenous tribe in Africa in traditional dress and drew her. She knew she wanted to do more of the same work.

“As an artist, I took a long journey to figure out who I am,” she said.

In 2012, she went to Laos and lived with a hill tribe. The tribe she lived with loved color. She watched the women embroider colorful patterns from clothing.

“I knew this is what I want to do and these are the people I want to have in my paintings,” Kim said. “[The trip] changed the style of my art and my life and my perspective.”

When Kim returned from Laos, she picked up textile and pattern books and began to study the ones she liked. She designed patterns based on the inspiration she found in the books, but also from her time in Laos.

Kim studied ceramics and fashion design in college, learning skills that helped her understand clothing and how to render it.

Her paintings begin with a pencil drawn face. She focuses on the facial expression and the eyes. She wants the face to look realistic. She then goes over the drawing with acrylic paint to add the colorful patterned clothing and accessories.

The painting part is more creative and loose, she said. The background always features a Western landscape.

When her husband, at the time her boyfriend, first saw her work in South Korea, he immediately noted the color and commented how she was a bit of a “color freak.” It became Kim’s nickname, representing the way she saw the world and what she loved.

Kim moved to Jackson about a year ago after she had visited it to see her father-in-law. When she arrived in Jackson she moved away from her tribespeople. She found so much other inspiration and she started painting skulls and animals.

Her new show at the Rose is a return to her Colorfreak Tribespeople.

The show features paintings of indigenous people from around the world, including Native Americans. There is also one cowboy. The landscapes in the background are ones Kim has visited in Utah and New Mexico, as well as ones inspired by Jackson.

For Kim, it’s not just an exhibition. She communicates through her paintings.

“I feel like they are all a big part of me,” she said. “This is a way to tell people who I am.”

When Kim is painting she falls into her own world, and it’s the place she feels most comfortable.

She hopes people get that same sense of calm and contentment when they view her work.

“The moment you look at my paintings or the moment you step into my art show you are in Colorfreak World,” she said. “I want people to see it’s a different world that I created as an artist and I hope they just enjoy being there.” PJH

Kim’s latest exhibition opens with a reception from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday at the Rose with cocktails from Jackson Hole Still Works.

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