As a child, I was fascinated by the outdoors, especially birds. The feathers represented my wonders about the places I had never been, things I never knew, and things I never have seen.
A master of the painterly, Limoges style of enameling, Mi-Sook Hur creates poetically evocative compositions based on childhood memories and her love of the natural world. While she has a special interest in enamel jewelry, her metalwork also includes three-dimensional forms and wall-mounted plaques and panels.
Hur was born in a South Korea in 1965. Her father was a farmer who raised a variety of crops including rice, potato, and barley and her grandfather was an herbalist. Well respected in his village, he produced medicines and remedies for the community. Hur has vivid memories of her grandfather’s house filled with drying herbs and smelling like a meadow after a spring rain.
When she was five, Hur’s parents moved to Seoul to earn a living leaving her in the care of an aunt and uncle. As she later recalled, “One of my favorite activities was to collect precious and beautiful items such as feathers, beans, pebbles, wild flowers bugs, seeds, etc.” These childhood playthings were to become the subjects of her later artwork. She reflected, “I was happy when I was growing up there. The images of feathers, seeds, sprouts, beans, birds, etc. that I use for my work resembled my experiences as a child. They are grains of my spirit as if made of countless fragments, and my works serve as containers of my thoughts.”
Hur first explored drawing and watercolor in high school. With her family’s encouragement, she continued her artistic studies at the Seoul National University where in 1987 she was awarded her BFA in jewelry design and metalsmithing.
After teaching watercolor and drawing to high school students for several years, she decided to continue her studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she was awarded her MFA in 1998. Her teachers there were Fred Fenster and Eleanor Moty. As she later reflected, “I learned a work ethic from Fred Fenster and organizational skills from Eleanor Moty. They sowed and cultivated the seeds in me to improve my visual abilities and to analyze ideas.”
A prominent educator, Hur has taught at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina since 1999. Since joining the ECU faculty, Hur’s commitment to enameling has deepened. In 2003, she assisted her ECU colleague and teacher Linda Darty by writing a chapter for Darty’s book on enameling technique. Over the past ten years, Hur has made enameling a central part of her artistic practice and her teaching.
Nature and reflection are subjects of enduring interest to Hur. As she stated, “Nature fascinates me, as it constantly changes, repeating each season to continue the cycle of life. I collect forms from nature. My work is especially inspired by peppers, birds, beans, sprouts, and seedpods. After I select an original form, I multiply it into hundreds and arrange them in either rigid form or in disarray, depending on the message I want my art to have. I also divide one form into several pieces and display the work as either one whole piece or many smaller pieces. “
For more information on Mi-Sook Hur, visit her website: http://misookhur.com/home.html