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Stella Kwoun
When I Grow Up

mixed media collage
14″ x 19″


Clara Lieu, RISD Adjunct Professor

Clara Lieu
Art Prof & Partner

Artist Statement
“I’m currently an 11th grade student who loves art and is looking forward to attending an art school after my high school career. My love for art all started when I went to Disney world at the age of 8. As I first saw the Cinderella castle, I was amazed and shocked by the splendid scale and magnificence. Since I was too young, I can’t remember the details of my trip except for the castle and how my mother explained to me that that castle was made by designers and architects. Ever since that day, I decided to become an artist/designer who can give dreams, hopes and touch other people’s feelings through one’s art work.

‘When I grow up I want to marry daddy.’ This was my letter to Santa when I was 5. At that time, my dad was a superman to me, a best friend, and future husband. Thanks to my childhood memories, I am able to walk to the right path and grow to be a better person. The gray scale part of the collage represents the present state of me: calm, dark and always pondering. The yarns are my confused mind and the pieces of different kinds of cloth connected are my thoughts, forcibly arranged without classification.

The 5 stars stand for my family, which always shines regardless to the darkness of my mind. The bottom portrays a flashlight that lights the past state of me which is bright, active and innocent. By attaching yarns shaped as hands holding each other, and crayon that shows my love towards art, I wanted the audience to understand and feel my childhood which is always happy.”

Video Transcript

“You’re doing some terrific experiments with an extraordinary range of different mixed-media. I love that the string is so fluid and playful, and that the collage is meticulous and delicate.

I’d like to see the media interact more; right now they seem too isolated from each other. For example, what if you took one of those crayons and melted it so that it leaked all over the string?

You have a very poignant powerful theme that you’re working with, this idea about how your relationship changes with a parent as you grow from a young child into a young adult.

I’d like to see that transition more, because right now you’ve divided the piece in half, and for me that division — it’s too abrupt, and I’d like to see something a little bit more incremental that comments visually on what kind of transition that was for you.

But I think you’re really onto something here, and I would encourage you to keep pursuing the subject matter because I think there are so many possibilities and that combined with your fearless approach with mixed-media could be a really powerful combination.”

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5 responses on "Stella Kwoun"

  1. I love the bold exploration of materials in your piece, its calls for a closer look. I especially find the childhood part, illuminated by the flashlight really engaging; the diagonal makes it a dynamic shape and captivated me. In that area, I love the layers of visual information that you treat the viewer with: the letter and drawing, the photograph and the yarn piece that one gradually becomes aware of (it was so gratifying to discover it after reading your artist statement). These smaller narratives within the main narrative, interacting with each other, allows me to stay longer with the piece and, with the relationships that these different materials are forming.

    I think the grayscale area lacks that interaction within itself as well as with the childhood visual. It does insure, in its colour and detail, that the whole piece doesn’t become too busy, which I feel is important to maintain. However, the relationships that you state in your artist statement for the blue yarn and paper, do not seem intentional enough here and can be formed further. Overlaying the two areas, I feel, would be a way to resolve it.

    I particularly enjoyed, how there is a photographic and then a collaged self portrait of you in the piece. I find that really beautiful but wish that they weren’t so separate. Maybe the collage is made with the same photo-quality paper. Also, creating thumbnail sketches before putting the piece together would allow you to compare how the elements work together in different compositions and, bring more clarity to the transitions from childhood to present day.

    This is a wonderful piece, with some really great moments that show a real confidence of thought and concept! Good Job!

  2. Hello! I really love how brave you were with the different types of media in this piece. I agree with what others are saying with the composition of the piece being a bit too harsh by being split in half, but I think that is an easy thing to remedy in future works. I really enjoy the bottom part of the beam of light is creating a diagonal cut in your composition, as I feel it provides some interesting path for the eye to follow to your memories of childhood.
    I think that the flashlight metaphor you used is very interesting, since as you get older things tend to become forgotten or unclear. By illuminating these memories, you are bringing them back to present day, which shows how important they are to you. Overall, this is a very interesting piece,thank you for sharing it with us all!

  3. I love everything that is highlighted by the flashlight on the right. I feel like all of these materials that you’re using throughout the piece really come together in harmony in this area, and become believably imbued with all of this meaning that you’re bringing up in your artist statement. For instance, the yarn as a material is very inventive and playful, and reminds me of all of the crafts kids put together during childhood. Visually, on the right it acts as an effective kind of flashback the sketch of a thought.

    I don’t get this sense on the left. The yarn does get confused and wanders, but it evokes no images or references to thoughts, and I don’t understand why you also used the yarn for the hair. It confuses the understanding of the yarn’s function. Perhaps you could also craft it into half formed images, a little similar to what you created on the right to ease that transition and carry a clear meaning throughout. You already have so much contrast in palette and composition between the right and left side (and I love that really sharp line defining the beam of don’t even need the yarn there to define it, it’s great on its own). Leave the palette to do all the heavy lifting.

  4. It’s really wonderful to see you create such a personal piece! I think you’re establishing mood in each half of the piece nicely. There is a distinct feeling of melancholy and peacefulness in the left half, while the right half is definitely full of joy and playfulness. These moods also help establish the age and maturity difference between the two sections.

    However, I do think that the very divide between the two halves is very intense. It seems as though these two phases of life had absolutely no interaction between one another. Through your artist’s statement, I’m understanding that this transition to maturity was has a lot to do with your childhood experiences. Therefore, I think there should be more of a transition between the two halves, to show that although they are separate, one informs the other. Perhaps some of the yarn could travel across both areas, or a crayon could melt between the two of them.
    Maybe even consider how through these changes, you could create an even more compelling composition. Perhaps there’s a way to show the separation between these two phases of life without having to divide the piece in half!

  5. I’m really impressed by the confidence and distinctiveness of your two visual approaches in this piece! Your skill with mixed media shows very clearly; not only in how fully-realized and effective both of these sections of the composition are on their own, but in how they work together.

    The somber left side of the composition reads as very dark and colorless, but in fact it’s the subtle blue in the string of the hair that creates harmony with the yellow in the beam of the flashlight. The right side of the page appears extremely colorful as a result, but for the most part you’re actually just building on this complimentary color palette – and that makes the piece feel cohesive, despite the eclectic array of materials you’ve collaged together.

    However, although this relationship is very appealing visually, on an intellectual and emotional level it’s not as clear. As a viewer. I’m not entirely sure how these segments relate to one another, even as the mood is effectively conveyed in each. It’s apparent that you had a happy childhood, but not as apparent how you reflect on that childhood as the adult at the center of this image.

    All of the content is there, but the composition could be enhanced to make more of an impact in this way, as a sort of metaphor. For example, why is the beam of light coming from the bottom of the composition? What is the relationship between the portrait and the flashlight, or the figure and the environment in the background? What do these relationships say about your present state of mind and your memories? The way you carry our eye across the page, from one point of focus to the next, communicates your narrative.

    I can’t tell you how exciting it is to see someone work not only with such a technical proficiency, but on such personal subject matter! It’s all a matter of figuring out the most effective way to communicate; and with your openness and talent I’m confident you’ll continue to further hone this skill.

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