Sueim Koo

Married Life – I was covering my eyes,
ears, and mouth.

2021, Mixed media with collage on canvas, 24”(H) x 18”(H)

Married Life is a collage composed of images of myself with an abstract landscape as the background. The work represents events in my life and is a symbol of the wounds I have suffered as a woman and as an immigrant. I am covering my eyes, ears, and mouth with my hands in reference to the principle “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” and also an indirect reference to a Korean proverb about marriage.

According to this proverb, a new bride should be blind for three years so she will not criticize anything she sees, dumb for three years so she won’t speak out and say something she may regret later, and deaf for three years so she won’t be upset by being scolded. The proverb expresses the difficulties faced by a bride who was forced to deal with numerous restrictions and conflicts while living with her husband and his family. Traditional Korean views on marriage place importance on paternal-centered families and a culture in which men have authority over women. In the past, the culture of marriage would dominate women’s lives and consciousness. Fortunately, married women’s lives have improved, and young brides are no longer subject to this irrational situation. However, there are still women striving to break free from their traditional roles.

The proverb of the bride can also be used to describe my life as an immigrant. When I moved to the United States and I didn’t speak or understand English, I would sometimes avoid situations in which I would be seen as a foreigner or I didn’t understand the culture. There were a lot of things that I had to pretend not to see. My work is an attempt to address the feelings and experiences I have had as a woman, a wife, and as an immigrant, and to hopefully connect with others who have had similar experiences. There is a lot of hurts caused by unfair beliefs about people with different skin colors, different languages, different cultures, and different genders. We must remember that we are all human beings. It’s time to give serious thought to how we perceive and treat others for the benefit of future generations.

Sueim Koo

Video Short by Sueim Koo