Debbie Han is a Korean-American artist who grew up in Los Angeles. She received her BA in art from University of California and a MFA from the Pratt Institute in New York. Han’s work explores how human experiences are shaped and defined in contemporary culture. Over the past decade, she has been exploring the theme of idealized female imagery as a means to investigate the issues of race, culture, identity, and perception in today’s pluralistic societies. Her works range from sculpture, photography, installation, to painting. The processes she utilizes consist of a wide spectrum of methodologies that range from appropriating classical images and craft techniques to cutting-edge photographic manipulation.
In her photographic works, Han creates hybrid female figures by combining photographs of contemporary women’s bodies with heads of classical sculptures—the surface of each figure transformed through painstaking digital rendering that creates a marble-like texture. The resulting images challenge the standardization of female beauty throughout high art to mass culture. Han’s more recent “Color Graces” series is a continuation of her contemporary/classical assimilations, with the added element of multi-racial skin tones. While these images are an allusion to the dynamics and politics of social relations, they also transcend the diversities of the figures through powerful emotional drama.
Han also explores the themes of ideal beauty and racial identity through her work in sculpture—executed in a wide range of materials and hands-on processes. In the series “Terms of Beauty,” Han integrates various racial and ethnic facial features (hooked noses, thick lips, and oblique eyes, sometimes including more than one trait in the same face, or exaggerating them to the point of caricature) into nine Venus heads cast in bronze. In the installation “Battle of Conception,” 32 heads of Venus (recreated through the ancient practice of Korean celadon) are arranged in a chess game format; half of them with diverse racial features facing the other half, whose faces are obliterated.
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. Han’s works have been shown internationally, including 14 solo exhibitions in the United States, Korea, China, Germany, and Spain. She has also participated in numerous group exhibitions in the United States, Asia, and Europe—including exhibitions at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in California, The Saatchi Gallery in London, the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, Kunstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin, and the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul.
Artist’s website: debbiehan.net