Jeju is the Land of Lands — at least that’s what I like to call it.
We’ve got Love Land, Elephant Land, Mini Mini Land, Pacific Land, Eco Land and Dinosaur Land, not to mention two teddy bear museums, at least two tea museums, a hedge maze, lava tubes, a chocolate museum, a trick art museum, an Africa museum and a mysterious road where things appear to roll uphill. And that’s just scratching the surface.
Art, in some form, is everywhere.
In fact, right around the corner from my apartment, is Lee Jung Seop street, a charming road on a steep hill named after a famous Korean artist who once lived there. His story, like that of so many famous artists, is a sad one.
“Born in Pyongyang [North Korea] in 1916, Lee married a Japanese woman, and fled with his family to South Korea’s Jeju Island after the Korean War broke out. Extreme poverty forced him to send his wife and children to Japan, and he painted on cigarette tin foil wrappers and postcards. After suffering from malnutrition and hepatitis, the genius died alone at a Seoul hospital in 1956.” – Yonhap News, June 29, 2010
I walk by the Lee Jung Seop museum all the time, but have yet to go inside. I was planning to finally check it out for this challenge, but several things prevented that from happening.
First, my weekend was busier than normal, partly because I worked on Saturday. Well “work” isn’t exactly accurate. I went on a field trip with a bunch of high school kids and got paid to walk around and speak English with them. Guess where we went? An art museum!
Technically, it didn’t count for the challenge because it was a day too early, but I should earn some bonus points. Not only did I check out art, I witnessed the reaction of Korean teenage girls to it. Priceless.
In one room, many of the paintings were impressionistic nudes of women. As soon as the teens realized a figure was naked, they would get embarrassed, avert their eyes and rush out of the room. One girl tried to block the horrible sight by sticking her hands out in front of her while she repeated, “Oh, no, teacher. No. No. No.” Displays of modesty in this country can be highly entertaining, but that’s a topic for another post.
So, back to the challenge. Day 22 arrived and I had plans to go to the other side of the island. Several of my friends were participating in a foreigner market (yet another topic for another post) and I didn’t want to miss it. Apparently, there was art at the market, but I was too busy falling in love with a free burrito to realize it.
By the time I finally headed back to my side of the island, I knew it would be too late to see the Lee Jung Seop museum, so I decided to take a new, longer route home and keep my eyes peeled for anything art-related along the drive. When I saw a huge pole with bicycles dangling from it, I had to stop to take a closer look. I was hoping I had stumbled upon some avante-garde art gallery — something random like that is completely possible on this island.
Both disappointment and delight washed over me when I discovered it was not a gallery but a super cute two-story coffee shop with a wall of windows overlooking the ocean. I intend to go back.
After the brief encounter with the bicycle sculpture, I figured I had fulfilled the spirit of the challenge and could consider it successfully complete, but when I passed Lee Jung Seop street, just moments from home, I felt compelled to stop.
Since it was now after dark, all the street lamps, which are replicas of his work, were lit up. I grabbed my camera and tried (without a tripod) to get a photo. This shot isn’t the best, but you get the general idea. Pretty cool, right?
Then, as I walked to my car, finally headed for home, I noticed my shadow on the wall, and there was just one more thing I had to do …
How did art day go for you?
To see what’s coming up, check the 30-day Challenge List.