Comic book heroes are depicted as wearing capes, flying around and saving animals and small children from burning buildings.  But real-life heroes don’t portray themselves as such.  Heroes are sometimes hidden amongst the crowd, and they silently make a difference. A real-life hero doesn’t have to fly through the sky or have super strength, but just making a difference in your community can have a positive impact on the entire city.  David Choong Lee, a Korean painter, demonstrates this type of heroism when he creates projects that are dedicated to showing the problems of the world through realism, rather than painting utopias that everyone longs for.  His concept may not be ideal to some people, yet painting these pictures has given San Francisco something to think about.

cho4Immediately upon coming to San Francisco from Korea and enrolling at the Academy of Art University, Lee took it upon himself to focus his first major American project on the homeless in the streets.  Just watching the YouTube video of Lee on the streets speaking with a homeless man as he paints his portrait on boxes can bring a tear to your eye.  The way he interacts with the man while others just look away is heartbreaking.  The man that he paints, is a veteran, he is a nice individual who believes that he deserves the same rights that others of society receive on a daily basis. Lee decides to use him to expose the horrible way that the homeless people are treated.

The homeless man said his experience with the artist, was eye-opening.  In an interview with Walrus TV, an award winning magazine company that portrays life-changing stories, the man said, “I got arrested here a while back ago… for a panhandling warrant and I asked the judge, I said, ‘Judge, the constitution says everything has to be applied equally, otherwise it’s not a law.’” The man went on to explain how him panhandling on the corner of the street was no different than that of the politicians that were on the corner of the streets saying hello and asking for donations to fund their campaigns.  When the man explained the conditions of his life, it made me feel sorrow for him.  Not only that, but it made me realize that I should be thankful for the things that I have acquired in life and not take anything for granted.  The homeless man’s words, paired with the unique portrait painted on boxes, give us a small piece of what he has been through for a large chunk of his life.

cho2The majority of Lee’s paintings have been created on various boxes.  Cigar and wine boxes from several signature companies are his preference of choice when painting.  The boxes seem to pop out from the walls and the way that his work is positioned .  Looking at Village In The Wind, an oil painting series from 2013, the dozens of boxes that were captured to the gallery’s wall depicted the struggles of homelessness.  As seen in the project, homeless men are expressing sorrow for themselves in their predicament.  Not only that, but their blank expressions can be viewed by us as the men unable to figure out what to do next. They survive day to day by occasionally looking for handouts, but most of the time, they’re working hard for a little bit of change so they can get a hot meal.  Using boxes instead of a flat canvas gives the paintings a stronger, long-lasting impact.  I think that since the boxes are three dimensional, they appeal to us more than a flat surface. It’s a mentality that nudges us toward his unique style of art.

cho3It isn’t just the boxes that give us a stronger emotional impact when looking at Lee’s work, but the colors that he uses also jolt us with various emotions.  The colors in a relatively newer painting, Damon Soule, are very detailed.  The colors aren’t overly bright or anything, but they do give us an impression of what the author was feeling when he painted this.

“I’m always looking for a new technique,” Lee explained to Walrus TV.  “That what my fun part is, my kind of ‘same as you.’  You’re digging, record shopping, and then you find dope records, and then you can’t wait to mix with other sh*t. Exactly, the same thing.”  This is evident when glancing at his work over a long period of time.  His work began by focusing on realism and the problems that he felt the need to bring attention to.  He still paints the picture of the issues that society is facing, but his work has taken a slight turn towards abstract art.  Going back to Damon Soule, you can see the evolution in his painting when comparing it to Urbanscape, a series of paintings that he created in 2005.  The colors have become more striking over the years.  The colors that he uses now almost infuse with one another to give his paintings more meaning. dynamic character has allowed him to be a well-rounded artist who is capable of depicting his beliefs in both realistic and abstract art.

-Te’Ron Adams

Bold materials, heavy fabrics, intricate embroideries and distinctive designs are just a few of the things you will experience when visiting the House of Balenciaga in Paris, France or any of the hundred locations around the globe selling this esteemed brand.
One may ask how is it that one business can hold onto such a great deal of style and trend for as long as a century. It seems unimaginable because there are just a handful of companies in this world that are able to do so while remaining a running business with countless successful store locations and a strong customer base. Although it maybe rare, there is a man who made it happen. Cristóbal Balenciaga created a brand that has been up-and-running since 1918 and remains extremely prestigious to this day.
The House of Balenciaga is a high-end fashion collection that has been located at 10 Avenue George V in Paris, France since 1936, 18 years after its founding and its movement to numerous locations. The history that is embedded in this fashion house is remarkable and it is still growing.

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A toddler that masters the violin while he is still crawling around in diapers probably sounds like a fictional story, or at least a true story that was exaggerated over time. But no, in this world, there exists a child prodigy that learned to play the violin at an exceptional rate. Not only that, but he mastered the violin at the tender age of two while other babies were learning to speak and use the toilet properly. It amazes me how intelligent this boy is. His intelligence has shocked people around the globe, but it may be his bravery that awed the most. The incredible violinist, Caesar Sant, has inspired thousands, if not millions, of people by constantly fighting and pulling through. While his life-threatening illness has been proven to destroy countless lives, Sant hasn’t allowed the disease to conquer him.

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I walked around the High Museum of Art solo, smiling at the images that covered the walls before me. Something about them gave me a feeling of warmth and at times they made me feel even more proud of my culture and heritage as an African-American woman. The emotions that came over me were unusual because most of the people that I saw in the photos were complete strangers and living in deplorable conditions, but I still felt a connection to them. Not simply because we share the same skin color, but the fact that these individuals seemed to know the importance of family, caring for those that are close to them and cherishing the small things that you cannot place a dollar amount on.

gparks3Back in the 1950s the late photographer Gordon Parks discovered something different in the black community. He saw something greater and more important to document besides the constant reminders of blacks suffering from oppression, disenfranchisement and poverty. Parks was able to shed light on positivity among black Americans and he decided to put this at the forefront of his work. When I look at his portraits, I believe that he saw black males as role models and leaders of their families, and he viewed black women as the support system and backbone of their households. The photographer illustrated his visions through photography, the images that he documented tell a story that anyone can interpret and learn from—through it all the black race finds a way to live a resilient lifestyle no matter what we are faced with.

Ironically the exhibit titled, “The Segregation Story,” includes a collection of more than 40 color photos by the late Gordon Parks. They are on display at the High Museum of Art until June 2015. The title reflects what was going on in America during the 1950s. But the photographer took a journalistic approach by covering both sides of the story, the good and the bad. He pictured African-Americans dealing with segregation but he put these issues in the backgrounds of the images and he still manages to keep the family as the focal point, showing that black lives matter and our families are important to us. His images represent people of color as a unit and they are displayed in color prints instead of black and white something that other photographers were not doing at this time.

gparks5Take for example a photo called “Window Shopping,” it shows Ondria Tanner and her grandmother out window shopping in 1956 in Mobile Alabama. They stand before a window looking at several mannequins that are positioned high above ground. The mannequins are white and they don’t reflect the lives of the viewers. This photo represents what was taking place back then and even today in 2014 – all men and women are not treated like equals, but we have a choice of the lifestyle that we want to display.

Another photo shows a black man entrepreneur who has created an in-home barbershop. As he shaves his client who sits in his chair, the barber’s children are sitting on the floor playing with their toys together. The father sets an example for his children by allowing them to see him working and leading a home business but still making time for his family.

Race played a big part of segregation especially America. White people were elevated just because of their skin color, and black people were shot down because of theirs and held in small degrading positions no matter how knowledgeable they were.

One of Parks’ photos called “Outside Looking In,” was taken in Mobile, Alabama. This particular image is included in Life magazine’s 1956 photo essay called “The Restraints: Open and Hidden.” In the photo, a group of six black children stand outside of a fence peering through a gate as they stare into the park longing for the opportunity to be able to play inside of the park just like the white children were able to do. Even though the children are clearly saddened by this, they still huddle together in a time of distress.

gparks7Gordon Parks was an amazing man, who died in 2006. In Parks’ lifetime he broke several barriers, he was the first African-American photographer for Life magazine, and in 1944 he was the only black photographer working for Vogue magazine. Parks also co-founded Essence magazine and he became hollywood’s first major black film director.

When it comes to the “Segregation Story,” I think the black community needs to take a hint from our elders and work to make our situation better by taking action and creating change, before lives are sacrificed and dreams are shattered. The black community is notorious for being reactive, but now is the time to be proactive. Our ancestors had the knowledge and courage to do it back then and here we are in 2014 with the world in our hands (literally) so what’s our excuse?

-Jaya Franklin