point in her travels, Iona Park learned that the Chinese words
for “breath” and “brush mark” are the same. This, she relates
in her industrial-yet-airy studio in Glens Falls, resonated
with her. Looking at her paintings, some hanging on the walls,
others in their infancy on the floor, it’s easy to see why.
Her paintings resemble landscapes seen through a rain streaked
window pane: the color, light dripping across the canvas but
with a few distinct markings, the shadow of something concrete.
As in the names she’s given them—Pulmonary, Slough, Billow—there’s
a strong sense of rhythmic movement. Park explains that her
“inclinations about process and mark-making guide [her] rather
than the goal of a particular image.” She sites the paintings
of Caravaggio in comparison. “You want to lick them, they’re
gorgeous,” she says, referring to the smooth, lush surfaces
of his canvasses. But the process is invisible. Being able
to see the process, Park says, is what excites her.
exhibits her work regionally, with a two-person show this
past summer at the Lake George Arts Project. Her work also
has appeared in the Mohawk-Hudson Regional, Albany Center
Gallery Invitational, and small group shows in New York City.
as an undergraduate at Dartmouth College, studying archaeology,
that Park first got interested in process as an end in itself.
Because the body of knowledge in any archaeology project can
be so limited—a shard of pottery there, a knife handle there—it’s
not the final answers that are important. “It comes down to
the great questions you can ask,” she says. The same is true
of painting. “Painting reflects the quality of one’s inquiry,”
she says. “The more curious you are, the more you question
your conclusions, the richer the painting.”
lessons still inform her thinking about painting. Park says
she doesn’t know what her paintings will look like when she
starts out but she remains open to discovery. Each step determines
to Dartmouth College, Park studied painting at Indiana University,
with time served at the New York Studio School and Vermont
Studio Center. When she came to New York City in 1997, she
followed a path well-worn by decades of artists before her.
She waitressed, temped, painted and got married, with a brief
interlude as a tenure-track professor at Colorado State University.
On her return to New York in 2000, she painted full-time,
showing here and there; she sold works out of her studio to
private clients she connected with through her husband’s architectural
business. But New York, as it often does, became less viable
as a permanent place to live, and Park began looking farther
began teaching full-time at Skidmore College in 2004. Her
method of teaching reflects her strategies for painting. She
provides her students with neutral subjects—figures, still
lifes—a blank slate through which they discover the patterns,
palettes, techniques that intrigue them.
method, she hopes, will help her students discover their own
voices rather than adopt hers. “I can’t imagine anything worse,”
she says. “Clones of me.” After a challenging first year at
Skidmore, she’s become very involved in her teaching, waking
up in the middle of the night with ideas for her classes.
Seeing the process of discovery in her students and the originality
in their work keeps the teaching exciting for her, though
she hopes to find more time for her own work.
to upstate New York was also a difficult passage, and Park
had trouble settling into her painting after the move. Her
city paintings had been influenced by the urban landscape
she walked with her camera, the gridlike streets of Manhattan.
First there were triptychs, three eight-inch square plywood
panels she painted with water-based mediums. Then she expanded,
painting grids of 32 panels laid out as neatly as a map of
New York. Though her work sold, the form began to feel too
refined, and she was unable to complete her last commission.
period followed, and then the panic of not working for a time.
After relocating upstate, she fell back onto the landscapes
she knew, but the grids were tied to New York City and nothing
came of it. The first really new pieces emerged devoid of
color, much like a pale, wintry day, but she saw her use of
materials expanding. Park had begun experimenting with different
kinds of gesso (acrylic and traditional), and casein, a milk-based
paint used for outdoor frescoes that she made herself. She
also began layering Asian papers onto her canvases, which
she sanded, buffed, pulled off, tore away. Eventually, color
began to reenter her work, while her pieces also expanded
in size to match her new landscape. This, she says, shook
things up. Her latest paintings, featured at the show at the
Lake George Arts Project, were a big release, she says, deeply
felt abstracts intuitively inspired by landscapes, rich with
color and distinctively marked.
says she got her first taste of art in the house she grew
up in, in Michigan: Her father, a Korean immigrant, stocked
the home with paintings. As an adult, she has made two trips
to Korea. Seeing that country’s art firsthand helped her jettison
the notion of oil paint—and Caravaggio—as the gold standard.
As in Chinese paintings, there is a deep reverence for the
landscape that permeates the culture. She hopes to return
to Asia in the next two to three years to explore these and
other themes that resonate with her own work.