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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

American artist honors Korean independence movement icon Yoo Gwan Soon in Exhibition

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A Californian female artist who has been painting the Korean independence movement icon Yoo Gwan Soon for years has launched an exhibition in Southern California.

Her name is Maureen Gaffney-Wolfson (80), a resident of the Valley who has been painting for 60 years.

Although she had never had a personal relationship with South Korea, her eyes were opened to a new world five years ago when she learned of the sacrifices made by Yoo Gwan Soon in the independence movement against Japanese colonial rule.

“I cried. I literally cried. [Yoo Gwan Soon was] so young and so brave… My heart broke when I read about Yoo Gwan Soon. She was only 16 when they captured her and 17 when she died, and this is a girl who marched into hell because she believed in her religion, her freedom, and her people. I wanted everyone to know what she did.”

Her artworks are predominantly based on her research and imagination. In particular, “Connection of Butterflies” depicts the independence activist Yoo Gwan Soon holding a dove, a symbol of peace, while looking at a red butterfly of hope, portraying the desperation of the Korean people 100 years ago.

In 2019, an exhibition was held in South Korea in honor of the 100th anniversary of Independence Movement Day on March 1, and one of her works was displayed at Ewha Girls’ High School, where Yoo Gwan Soon attended. Ewha Womans’ University President Eunmi Kim and her husband, who recently visited Los Angeles, met with Wolfson to express their gratitude.

After a lifetime of working as a model, movie star, and singer in Hollywood, she turned to painting after her retirement. Although she has never been to South Korea, she says getting to know Yoo Gwan Soon and witnessing what the country went through with Japanese invasion, war, occupation, and imperialism broke her heart.

“I’ve heard that South Korea and Japan are starting to form relations again, and I hope that rather than fomenting ill will and confrontation, they can move forward to a better future, just as she would have wanted.”

Wolfson expressed her desire and willingness to have her works displayed to a wider public, even if that means donating them for free to a museum or a private buyer.

“No matter how valuable they are, it would be a shame for them to be sitting in a basement collecting dust, and I want everyone to see and remember them.”

Wolfson’s exhibit will be displayed at the Plaza De La Raza in Lincoln Heights (3540 North Mission Rd. (323) 223-2475) through May 31. The family of Congressman Jimmy Gomez also reportedly visited the exhibit.

The Wolfsons also hope to invite the Korean Consulate General and officials from the Korean Education Center Los Angeles (KECLA), as well as the Korean Institute of Southern California (KISC), to view the paintings as well.

BY INSEONG CHOI [support@koreadaily.com]