Born in Korea and raised in Southern California, artist Mimi Yoon’s acrylic paintings are very much centered on the power of the feminine form. Often inspired by pop culture references, Yoon’s women are often sexy and sensual and always powerful.
Whether striking a super hero pose or making unexpected choices, they fully own the spaces they occupy. Case in point, Yoon’s Cinderella who’s chosen to purchase her own Air Jordan 1 Banned sneakers “instead of waiting for a prince to bring her a glass slipper.”
Snobette: At what age did you begin your creative endeavors? What were you first artistic efforts?
Yoon: “According to my mom, I started to draw stick figures when I was a year and a half old. I’ve been doodling as long as I can remember.
Snobette: Did your parents encourage you from a young age?
Yoon: “My parents didn’t want me to attend art school. They wanted me to have a career that requires a license and ensures easy employment and stable income such as a nurse or CPA. I studied graphic design and worked as a freelancer until I opened an art school in 2001 for kids, which I had a great run with. Only about 10 years ago, I started to paint and began to describe myself as an artist.
Snobette: You were born in Korea. Do you think your place of birth has had an impact on how you portray your subjects?
Yoon: “Yes, subconsciously and consciously, being born and raised partly in Korea had a huge impact on how I portray my girls, and also being brought up by strict conservative old school Catholic parents. When I first started to paint expressing subtle emotions, I was releasing the emotions I was taught to suppress. And as my art has evolved, I became more confident painting my girls striking sexy poses in sexy outfits effortlessly conveying messages. I also embracing Eastern and Western themes, making my girls identifiable to both cultures in their looks.”
Snobette: Did you attend an art school or college?
Yoon: “Yes, I studied graphic design at [California State University Long Beach]. I attended ArtCenter but ended up transferring to CSULB because the tuition was too high.
Snobette: Are you a full time artist?
Yoon: “I’d like to consider myself a full-time artist even though I don’t paint every day or have a set hours per day or week dedicated to painting. My mind is always creating even when I’m not sitting in front of a canvas.”
Snobette: What materials do you use to create your works of art?
Yoon: “I paint using acrylic only, because I don’t have the patience to wait for oil to dry. I usually don’t sketch out my ideas. Most of my sketches are done in my head, and often times I start a painting intuitively really not knowing where it’s going.”
Snobette: Your work is centered around portrayals of women. What message do you hope they impart to viewers of your work?
Yoon: “I strongly support the idea and definition of Girl Power and women empowerment: being confident, making one’s own decisions and achieving goals independently. I also believe any and all forms of bullying should disappear. Hence I attempt to subtly portray the concept in my art.”
Snobette: “How have your portrayals of women evolved over the years?
Yoon: “Looking back I feel I mostly portrayed girls with different emotions, some quite mysterious. Over the years, my girls have become more confident and assertive in an attempt to convey positive messages rather than emotions.”
Snobette: What inspired you to introduce sneakers into your work? Your illustrations include the Air Jordan 1 plus the Nike Red October silhouettes. Any particular reason those shoes spoke to you?
Yoon: “The introduction of sneakers in my work started with my first Cinderella piece, ‘Once Upon A Time No More 2.’ My Cinderella is happy with the men’s Air Jordan 1 she purchased with her hard-earned money instead of waiting for a prince to bring her a glass slipper. This piece is all about Girl Power, and it also implies that girls can do what boys can do so she’s wearing men’s sneakers.
“Painting Nike Red October sneaker in the Little Mermaid piece was to simply camouflage Sebastian the red crab in it. And I hoped to impart the message to stand up to bullies. I often ask my first son who loves sneakers which sneakers to paint in my paintings so in a way it’s a collaboration with my son.”
Snobette: You’ve done quite a bit of commercial illustration. Is there a particular project you feel especially good about?
Yoon: “Commercial or personal, all my paintings are like my children. They’re all part of me, and I feel equal towards all of them.
Snobette: How is the financial landscape for female versus male artists and illustrators as of late? Has progress been made in achieving greater equality in compensation?
Yoon: “I have not paid much attention to the pay differences between female and male artists for their art, but an art piece should never be judged or compensated based on the gender of the artist.”
Snobette: You live in Orange County. What’s your favorite place in Southern California to connect with nature?”
Yoon: “I love going for walks in Huntington Beach on weekends. And not quite to connect with nature, but I enjoy strolling in the Pasadena Flea Market.”