Debbie Han is a multi-media artist who grew up in Los Angeles and received her BA in art from University of California, Los Angeles and an MFA from Pratt Institute in New York. Han has been exploring the interaction of individual experiences with social relations to examine the underlying forces that shape human lives and consciousness. Her works from the past two decades range from painting, sculpture, photography, to installation, and she continues to experiment with possibilities of visual expression today. The processes Han utilizes consists of a wide spectrum of methodologies such as appropriation of classical images and traditional craft techniques, manipulation of cutting-edge photographic rendering, and reinvention of painting through the elimination of paint brush and colors.
Han creates in her photographic works hybrid female figures by combining contemporary women’s bodies with heads of classical European sculptures. The skin surface of each figure has been transformed through painstaking digital rendering to a marble-like smooth texture, resulting in a powerful sculptural illusion. These allegorical figures challenge the standardization of beauty as a social construct, and further examine the global racial dynamics and hierarchy in contemporary societies. In “Battle of Conception,” the artist recreates the celebrated western beauty icon of Venus in the ancient ceramic tradition of Korean celadon. By reconstructing the faces with diverse racial and ethnic characteristics in one group and positioning it as in a chess battle against another group with obliterated facial features, the iconic heads serve as a social signifier that subversively deconstructs the mechanism of perception.
In Han’s recent series of paintings “Portrait of Now, Then, and Ever,” she investigates human relationships in an attempt to grasp the connecting core of human experiences beyond all external differences. The matrix of interconnected faces with myriad expressions depicted in these paintings reflects the interconnectedness of people’s lives. At the same time, it reveals the continuously shifting inner dynamics of an individual in a journey towards awareness of self and the world.
Han was the winner of The Sovereign Asian Art Prize in 2009 for her acclaimed “Graces” photo series and the recipient of The Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant in 2007. She was also awarded with numerous artist residencies around the world. Han’s works have been shown internationally, including fourteen solo shows in the USA, Korea, China, Germany, and Spain. Han also participated in numerous group exhibitions in the USA, Asia, and Europe, including exhibitions at Santa Barbara Museum in Santa Barbara, the Saatchi Gallery in London, Kunstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin, and the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul.