Although Soey Milk is still a student at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, she managed to make her way onto Empty Kingdom, a leading international Arts site, twice within the last year; first, in August of 2012, and then again in January of 2013. Her work, primarily oil on canvas – with some sketches and doodles as well – evokes the viewer’s vulnerability and challenges the norms of the female body. FLATT had the opportunity of speaking with the artist as she releases even more of her work.
BRIANNA LYLE: Your work possesses a great dichotomy between the traditional woman and the modern woman. Is this a conscious decision? If so, why does this dichotomy seemingly propel your work?
SOEY MILK: Not really. I respond to the subject that I’m enticed to and I have a broad range of interest. I feel that both are beautiful in their own ways.
BRIANNA LYLE: You’re clearly inspired by the female form – what makes painting women so enticing?
SOEY MILK: Almost everything: the curves, the softness. I am hugely charmed by the sophistication and elegance of the form.
BRIANNA LYLE: Do you ever see yourself painting/drawing men? Why or why not?
SOEY MILK: As much as I love painting women, it is really about the ‘bringing together’ of an image that I take a great deal of pleasure in. Therefore, yes, I do see myself drawing and painting men hopefully in the near future.
BRIANNA LYLE: You’ve been labeled as an “erotic artist.” Do you feel this accurately describes your style of art?
SOEY MILK: It is true that eroticism plays a big part in my work process, and some pieces are more suggestive than others. However, it is not the only quality that I wish to convey through my work, and I do not wish to put a label on them.
BRIANNA LYLE: What is it about sexuality, or sensuality, that you are trying to evoke in your work?
SOEY MILK: One’s vulnerability and heartache, the ecstasy and the uncovering.
BRIANNA LYLE: Other notable artists such as Guy Rose and Alson Clark made Pasadena, CA their home – did growing up there influence you as an artist at all?
SOEY MILK: Pasadena’s museums like the Norton Simon, Pasadena Museum of California Art and the Huntington Library were exceptionally beneficial. I also love Gamble House and the Pacific Asia Museum.
BRIANNA LYLE: At Flatt, we are always putting our philanthropic foot first and we strongly believe in an arts education. Did you have a strong arts program growing up, and if so, how did it influence you?
SOEY MILK: When I was growing up in Korea, I ground up leaves and flowers, painted on rocks, and made sculptures out of mud and icicles under the guidance of my mother. Adventure, paying attention to small things, and embracing mistakes is all a very important part of my work process and I believe it originates from my childhood.
BRIANNA LYLE: Has you mother’s influence carried over into your work as an artist now?
SOEY MILK: She taught me to recognize, accept, and appreciate different forms of beauty, which I find pivotal in my development process.
BRIANNA LYLE: It seems nature was your medium as a child in Korea. Why was this?
SOEY MILK: Growing up, I lived very close to the mountains and streams. Since I spent most of my time surrounded by nature, I think it was only natural for me to make it my medium.
BRIANNA LYLE: How did growing up in Korea influence your work in the U.S?
SOEY MILK: It allowed me to be aware of and embrace two distinctly different cultures and broaden my perspective.
BRIANNA LYLE: You recently were featured in an exhibition entitled “Fiction” with Modern Eden Gallery. How did you choose a literary figure to paint?
SOEY MILK: In the original version of the story ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, which was called ‘La Finta Nonna’, the wolf is a werewolf and he wins at the end of the story. Some versions tell that the werewolf tricks the girl into eating the grandmother with him, or he tricks the girl into taking her clothes off and ends up eating her when they’re in bed. The darkness and the bizarreness of the story has always been fascinating to me.
BRIANNA LYLE: Your painting for the “Fiction” exhibition, entitled “Night Flow,” displays the innocence of womanhood – some might say it’s one of your most innocent pieces. Why didn’t you choose a more sensual heroine to depict?
SOEY MILK: Because I was working with a certain version of the story. It was natural for Little Red Riding Hood to be depicted as a piece of innocence and as a victim.
BRIANNA LYLE: How do you prepare yourself before starting a new piece?
SOEY MILK: Lots of scribbling of ideas and drawing. Careful construction is always present, but I always tell myself to never go against the flow.
BRIANNA LYLE: What are your future goals in the creative economy?
SOEY MILK: Books, exploration, and love.