Hiejin Yoo is a Los Angeles-based painter who creates work that reflects daily life. Amid COVID-19, she’s been staying creative in isolation by reading new books, listening to podcasts, and taking daily walks with her dog. To stay hopeful, she revisits photo albums, tries out new recipes in the kitchen, and checks in with her friends in Korea.
Whitewall spoke with Yoo about her time in isolation, staying connected, and how one book sparked daily visits to her art studio.
WHITEWALL: How are you doing?
HIEJIN YOO: Luckily, my family and I are doing well staying healthy and safe. I started going to my studio daily basis again. We have to wear a mask when we walk around a common area, but everyone in the studio building seems better and gets used to the situation than the beginning.
I have been making some new works for the upcoming group shows. I am very excited, even though I might not be able to attend the opening and meet people because of COVID 19. Hope everything gets better soon!
WW: What are you listening to, reading, watching?
HY: I’ve been listening “The Modern Art Notes” podcast by Tyler Green and reading books that are related to some of his episodes. He is great! I’m reading Michelangelo, God’s Architect by William E. Wallace. I loved his podcast interview. Once everything gets fine, I am planning to travel to Italy and see his masterpieces in person. I haven’t been to Italy yet! And Seinfeld is our favorite TV show. We must have watched entire episodes more than ten times…
WW: What are you cooking?
HY: I wasn’t a big fan of cooking before, but this situation changed me and gave me a new hobby. I started with making some spring rolls, then tomato lentil soup, chicken noodle soup, beet salad with goat cheese, and many different types of pasta, granola cookies, and honey cornbread.
WW: How are you staying connected?
HY: Mostly Instagram messages or FaceTime. I was not good at having long conversations through text messages or talking on the phone, but now I am getting better!
I have to walk my dog every day, and I always run into our neighbors who walk their dogs on a similar schedule. We talk a little bit of our daily life and sharing some new information while keeping the distance. Our dogs don’t understand why they can’t say hello and play together… I wish I could explain to them.
WW: How are you staying creative?
HY: It was hard to make any work at the beginning. I felt nothing was inspiring me. I have two best friends in Korea and they both recommended this book called The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down by Haemin Sunim. I got the book and it helped me a lot. Now I go to my studio almost every day, making new paintings.
My work is about personal memories in daily life. I appreciate the mundane things that we had before even more now.
WW: Where are you finding hope or inspiration?
HY: I go to my photo album many times a day and it cheers me up. We will have our normal life back soon—if we do what we need to do and not be selfish.