Through the thesis, I produce a highly rigorous body of works and explore the theoretical and philosophical reasons behind my paintings. I explore why I repeatedly paint myself as a woman and why the symbols of tigers, frogs, Frankenstein, and other aspects of Northeast Asian and Korean culture and heritage appear in my paintings. I find that painting is a process by which I can reflect on my own identity as a Korean who alternates between masculine and feminine identities. Painting allows me to react against the problems threatening my identity such as the worldwide trend of the racialization of beauty and racism which I encountered in my youth in the US. It is also a coping mechanism to survive my “mental illness” (which is in quotation marks because I do not believe that I have it), which would otherwise destroy me due to the pain and anger that it causes. I explore texts by various authors such as Judith Butler (on gender fluidity and performativity), Shirley Anne Tate (on racialization of beauty, anti-racist aesthetics, performativity of beauty, and hybrid beauty), Sigmund Freud (on the theory of sexuality and the concept of sublimation), and Hans Prinzhorn (on the art of the mentally ill). The result of the thesis is a comprehensive account of my art that explains where it is ideologically positioned in terms of the political, social, cultural, and personal. It is also an assessment and a self-reflection of how and why I arrived at where I am in today. Through the thesis, I also wish to make the case that my art and I are of good nature, and to ask for reconciliation with and forgiveness from the friends from the past who left me.
Fine Arts Studio (MFA)
Department, Program, or Center
School of Art (CAD)
Park, Chunbum, "Painting as a Vehicle for Identity Formation and Survival" (2022). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
RIT – Main Campus