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The Immersive World of Artist Soo Sunny Park

Virginia Prescott
BioLath installation at the Currier Museum of Art

The Currier Museum of Art’s website describes the current installation by Soo Sunny Park, titled BioLath, as: “an immersive sculptural environment that explores the effect of light on visual perception.”

On a recent visit to the Currier with some Manchester Elementary students, I witness the effect first hand: the kids are enthralled and immersed in the installation, and more comfortable than most adults when it comes to talking about contemporary sculpture.

Beyond the initial ooh-ing & ahh-ing effect of BioLath, a close look at the work reveals how meticulous and labor intensive its construction is.

Credit Virginia Prescott
Soo Sunny Park's BioLath at the Currier Museum of Art

I visited Soo Sunny Park,  Associate Professor of Arts & Sciencesat Dartmouth College, at her studio in West Lebanon, New Hampshire to find out how she does it. I spotted Sunny—as she’s called—with her almost azalea-pink colored hair just as she was opening the door on a cold, drizzly spring day.

Inside, she showed me drawings and sculptures and pieces made of dry-wall, rebar, chain-link fencing; things that hold things up and together, but are usually hidden.

When asked why she uses these common materials, she says, “You know now I look back and realize all the things that we build walls with and houses with. Glue as well too. So the idea that these create space, inside out to create boundary. Things you wouldn’t normally make form with. I like the idea of slipping that out of that space. I’m interested in that space between things.”     

Credit Virginia Prescott
Raw materials stacked up in Soo Sunny Park's studio.

A piece hanging from the ceiling is made of chain link fencing coaxed out of the cylindrical shape you’d find it in at Home Depot, and shaped into something much more malleable, like a net twisting and bloating in the wind. A net filled with glistening bits of pinks, lavenders, magentas and yellows, like the scales of some other-worldly fish.

What look like scales are tiny tiles cut from a sheet of Plexiglas that has no color, but appears iridescent when reflecting the changing light. Thousands of these little tiles were cut, each edge sanded, drilled with tiny holes and attached by twisted wires into the empty squares between the re-formed mesh. This is just one building block of dozens welded together for an installation called “Unwoven Light” at Rice University.

In the past few years, her installations have appeared in shows from the Vancouver Biennale to the United Arab Emirates. She’s also making her name outside of the capital A art world…landing at number one on Buzzfeed’s listicle of “Dreamy Art Installations You Want To Live In.” High-end fashion company Delpozo credited Sunny for inspiring its Spring 2017 line during New York Fashion Week. She’s also been featured in Time and in “T” The New York Times’ style magazine.

Credit Virginia Prescott
Virginia Prescott

After decades of making everything herself, Sunny now has help turning her ideas into sculptures big enough to fill rooms.

In a room just off the studio entrance, David Buggs and Lew Karbler are wrestling with wire fencing—a stiffer, thicker gauge material than that used for BioLath—they’re making multiple copies of several different shapes that will also be filled in with Plexiglas tiles and then pieced together in a large scale sculpture that will cover the side of a building. Sunny can’t yet talk about the specifics of the installation, but Lew gives me a demo, and it’s a workout. Sunny says she regularly finds bruises on her knees and hips.

BioLath’s home is at the Currier Museum of Art until August 6th.

Virginia Prescott is the Gracie Award-winning host of Word of Mouth, Civics 101, The 10-Minute Writers Workshop podcasts, and the Writers on A New England Stage series on New Hampshire Public Radio. Prior to joining NHPR, she was editor, producer, and director for NPR programs On Point and Here & Now, and directed interactive media for New York Public Radio.
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