Monday, July 27, 2009

“Being Mindful: Talking with Artist Stella Im Hultberg”

As I walked toward the paint-splattered front of Thinkspace Gallery in Silver Lake, three heads dripped into view. From the outside, I could see three female faces popping from the lime green walls. They were like black flower bulbs, but with narrowed eyes and pouted lips. The faces seemed to slide down the wall with a certain lightness and in an almost melting movement. Garlands of gold and green leaves tangled and swirled around their flowing figures.

It’s not Klimt, it’s not Art Nouveau—it’s “Memento Mori,” Stella Im Hultberg’s current solo show at Thinkspace Gallery.

Known for her sensuous female figures, Hultberg has her own distinct style. However, she still draws inspiration from the likes of Klimt and Schiele.

I had a huge turning point after seeing an epiphanic Egon Schiele exhibit a few years ago,” explained Hultberg in an email interview,
”I guess both Klimt and Schiele, to me, are endlessly inspiring.
Inspiration, though, comes from all angles - recently I've been inspired by mythology and nature a lot.”

And with these two themes, Hultberg conjured “Memento Mori” for her Los Angeles exhibition.

“Memento Mori, meaning ‘be mindful of death’ in Latin, just felt right when I had to choose a title,” Hultberg said,”the phrase was appealing in a way that it implied the duality of 
life and death.
In life, there's a bit of death, and vice versa - physiologically or mythologically speaking.” 

From wooden dolls to paintings, Hultberg fuses this idea of life and death with sultry, vibrant faces and somber black and white hues. It almost seems like a play with the folkloric art of wooden dolls and the traditional practice of still life—this time, with humans rather than fruit or vegetables.

Outside of influential artists and conceptual ideas, Hultberg’s own diverse background serves as inspiration in itself. Raised in Seoul, Hong Kong, and Taiwan and now living in New York City, Hultberg finds muses in everyday people.

“I think growing up around a variety of cultures and people has made me really interested in and appreciate people as humans and human nature,” said Hultberg.

And of all places to people watch—New York City!

“I love that NYC is diverse and always changing - seasons, trends, 
people. There's a lot of on-going transience, yet maintaining its character,” said Hultberg, “being surrounded by super creative, talented, genuine, yet humble people who are always making life happen for themselves really 
inspires me to work harder on my craft and life.”

Eastern Asia and New York City. People and culture. Humanity and nature Klimt and Schiele. Life and death. Hultberg works with duality, the black and white, but with a flowing, natural style that brings it altogether conceptually and visually. And with "Memento Mori," death has never looked so good.

“Memento Mori” is ongoing until August 7 at Thinkspace Gallery (

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