Jae Yong Kim '98

Jae Yong Kim '98, Hartford Art School alumnus

"Though it was difficult, the time at school was one of the most fun periods of my life. Everyone had the same dreams, goals, and interests so we never ran out of subjects to talk about and our conversation was exciting."

Jae Yong Kim '98 is a world-renowned artist whose best-known works are exquisite and playful sculptures of doughnuts. During his time at the Hartford Art School, his professors imparted lessons which continue to influence his work to this day.

What is your favorite memory (or memories, if you have a few) of your time at the Hartford Art School?

Of so many memories at Hartford, one of my favorites would be working late at night at school during my freshman year. There were so many students at school all the time. I remember how we carried around our pillows in the hallway to have a short nap and then work again. Back then, coming from Korea, I was less comfortable with English and I was determined to work harder, but all the other kids worked so hard that it was challenging for me to catch up. Though it was difficult, the time at school was one of the most fun periods of my life. Everyone had the same dreams, goals, and interests so we never ran out of subjects to talk about and our conversation was exciting.

Compared to Korean schools, the life at Hartford was much more liberal and free. It was easier and natural to speak to the professors as well. When I met with the professors, I could feel that they really focus and direct all of their energy to the students. Hartford, I remember, was always full of people even at night. Almost every night was filled with students working overnight. It grew on me like a habit to be working every night and it developed to be my current work ethic. I feel that this is the most valuable thing that I gained from the years at Hartford—and it is what I miss the most.


What inspires your current work?


I love donuts and sweets. I started working with donuts with the idea you can consume the things that you love very easily. Many of the things that you like, love, or have an addiction to tend not to be healthy. For me, sweets and donuts are particularly like that. I am putting the donuts on the wall and not in the mouth as a metaphor of self-resistance. That is the reason why you do not see any donut with a bite mark in my work, because only perfect donuts seduce you relentlessly. It is on the wall as a tempting art piece, but you cannot really touch it. I think life is like this because there is always a sweet that you go after that is not necessarily good for you.


What do you think are some of the most challenging aspects of working as an artist?


Being an artist is a great job. Working with creative people who are so passionate about what they do for a living is such a joy. I do enjoy it. The downside is me fighting myself. I fight myself all the time, which means it just takes longer to get someplace. But I do enjoy being an artist and making other people happy. When people see my work, they see my struggle transformed into joy, so I enjoy that moment when I’m showing my art.


Do you have any advice for current students?


Never put off things you want to do, do it now. When in school, you have many goals and wishes that you want to achieve such as ‘I want to make this series of work in a larger scale’ or ‘I should take the Art History course’. When you think you want to do it, you should do it right away. The opportunities or time for you to do something don’t always lie there waiting for you, and it is harder than you think to do something later. Instead of focusing on trying to finish school in time, it may be more important to think about what to do in order to fill your days. You should have as many diverse experiences as you can.

Jae Yong Kim doughnut artwork in New York City
Also, from my experience, what you can learn from your professors is invaluable. The perspective, attitude, and dedication of my professors—Walter Hall, Matthew Towers, Hiro Fukawa, and Gilles Giuntini—inspired me greatly. The dynamics and the teamwork they have shown allowed me to grow as a student and as an artist. As I majored both in Ceramics and Sculpture, it was possible for me to encounter the teaching and insight from both departments, and furthermore, I got to see and craft sculpture in a different perspective.

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