White Flower Bride (Baek Hwa Shinbu 백화 신부), Photography from The Multiverse Portraits, ©2016, Lightbox, 60 x 90 cm
The wry mimic of a bridal portrait, Bae Hwa Shinbu alludes to the ubiquitous type of cosmetic surgery advertising that implies after going under the knife, the ultimate female wish will be fulfilled – getting married! The title refers to the famous fictional Kisaeng (Korean Geisha) from the Goryeo dynasty called Baek Hwa (White Flower), who was betrothed to be married but was forced to be a Kisaeng by her family. She tried to be virtuous and stay faithful to her fiancé, but ended up killing herself. Bae Hwa (White Flower) became a 1930s archetype in the colonial genre of “Paintings of Beautiful Women.” Both Japanese and Korean male artists portrayed such young beautiful virtuous heroines as innocent yet sexually charged. Such colonial representations of Korean women during the Japanese Colonial period were circulated to reinforce a sexualized and objectified subordinate female.
In this work, RHEE employs an manipulated image of herself as Baek Hwa and is reborn with the assistance of cosmetic surgery and ready to be married.
This work is part of the project, Modern Beauty Ideals in the Age of Digital Technology.