EDMONDS — Hannah Noh, 17, a senior at Edmonds-Woodway High School, turned to art as a way to communicate when the only language she knew was Korean. She continues to seek ways to use art to communicate messages.
Question: When did you become interested in art?
Answer: My mom, she’s a teacher. She’d always read (my younger sister and me) picture books. Then she’d draw pictures for us. … We learned art from my mom. My mom told me I was a good artist and really encouraged me.
Q: You said your parents moved to the Seattle area from South Korea when your mom was pregnant with you.
A: The first five years of my life I only spoke Korean. So I had a hard time communicating with people (in elementary school) and was bullied because I couldn’t speak English. The way I overcame that was with art. It made people happy and encouraged me. I found there was another way to communicate with people — through art. … Friends also would come up and ask me to draw something for them. It was a first step for me to make new friends.
Q: Can you give an example of something you created then?
A: The only thing I remember from when I was younger was this picture I drew in first grade. We read a book and we had to draw a cat. I remember my teacher saying it was a very unique cat. She sent it to the Edmonds Arts Festival, and someone wanted to buy it.
Q: Tell me about your painting, “Overcoming.”
A: That’s about the racism I had to go through. I grew up in a neighborhood where there weren’t many other Asians. It really put me in the background. I was never in the spotlight. So I wanted to express that in my painting — painting the face kind of blended into the back, but with the chin up a bit because I’m overcoming all this stuff.
Q: Every detail in your work, down to tiny color choices, has meaning to you. Explain why you used thread to outline facial features in your “Stitched” mixed media work.
A: It was a reminder… They will never be able to come back and hurt me again. They’re stitched on. They’re in the past.
Q: Another work combines the Seattle and Seoul skylines.
A: That’s one of my favorite art pieces I’ve done. … I am a Korean-American. My motherland is Korea, but I am an American citizen — and I’d love to be in both places. My culture is over there, and it’s here, too. As a child, I wanted South Korea and Seattle to be one place.
Q: You transferred from Meadowdale High School for your junior year, and you say really clicked with your new art teacher, Tanya Johnson.
A: She encourages me to do what I want to do. “You do you.” She’s been supporting me ever since I came — to a new school environment, but also with my art.
Q: What else are you involved in?
A: I’m the National Art Honor Society Club president. I’m in Key Club. I volunteer at my church for the children’s ministry as their praise team leader — we’re preparing for the Christmas service; I get to teach them a dance. I also volunteer for my mom’s Korean (language) school. I’m also part of GIVU (which stands for Grow, Inspire, Volunteer, Uplift), led by UW students. It’s where we do community service.
Q: So what’s next for you?
A: I’m applying to Pratt (Institute’s School of Art) in New York. I’m hoping I’ll get accepted. I’m planning to double major in graphic design and communication design, and minor in art advertisement. My goal for the future is to be a creative director or art director for a company. … This past year, when I was thinking what I’d like to do with my art — I really want to communicate with my art. That’s something I’m really passionate about.
Q: You really value your parents, who go by their English names, Tom and Joyce. Your dad gave up a successful construction business to immigrate here. Your mom has a master’s degree and gave up plans to pursue a doctorate.
A: I have amazing parents who really support me. They’re both selfless people. They wanted to give me and my sister a better education … and positive environment. My mom had to kind of throw away her dreams. But she said after my sister graduates she’s going to go back to school.
Q: Who else inspires you?
A: I’d have to say my younger sister (Faith, a sophomore). We went through the same things… She understands my work and encourages me to be myself and create whatever I want. She’s a writer, and we always joke when we’re older we’ll create a children’s book together.
Melissa Slager: firstname.lastname@example.org, 425-339-3432
Hannah Noh’s art is on display through January 2017 in the McDevitt Young Artists Display Case (by the second-floor elevator) at the Frances Anderson Center, 700 Main St., Edmonds. Building hours are 8:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays; closed holidays.