As a second-generation Korean-American woman, and the only daughter of Korean immigrants, I grew up with a deeply ingrained set of cultural expectations concerning appearance, behavior, and social roles of women. Mimicry is a series of studio self-portraits in which I use photography to explore these cultural norms.
Though I myself view some of these expectations as unfair and potentially harmful to the self-esteem and social success of women, I recognize that I have internalized them, at least to some extent. Even for me, at those times when I am with my family or within Korean communities, I am acknowledging that social mimicry--both conscious and nonconscious--has its advantages. Adhering to these expected roles and behaviors helps preserve my family’s status and reputation within Korean communities at home and elsewhere, and also grants my own acceptance into these communities.
I have taken a humorous, tongue-in-cheek approach to the images in Mimicry as I would not want to sacrifice my family or my cultural connections by challenging these norms in a direct, confrontational way. I dress myself in traditional Korean women’s clothing, affect the idealized body language of Korean women, and engage in activities and behaviors associated with, and expected of, them. However, facial expression, incongruous details, exaggeration, and sometimes a careful satire allow me to distance myself from the traditional, idealized image of the Korean woman.
Even though the styling, props, and ideas in these images are clearly Korean or Asian, I believe that the underlying issues they explore are almost universal—ones that have been experienced, or at least can be understood, by women in most other cultures. My hope is that Mimicry will create a dialogue and encourage the viewer to identify and challenge these roles and rules for women.