Sharon Ko

Sharon Ko

Sharon Sevgi Ko is a Korean American third culture kid l who grew up in Istanbul, Turkey. She is currently exploring art and photography in Santa Barbara, California.

When and how did you begin to make art?

I started making art when I was very little. I never remember not creating art. It came naturally to me to process and express myself through art. I also did a lot of music growing up so that was another element I am very grateful for. I think ever since I was Elementary school I dreamt of being an art teacher. So that was always a dream of mine.

Regarding photography, I got my first digital camera when I was a sophomore in HS and I just loved taking pictures. I used my parents’ cameras and my iPod touch. I enjoy photography because it was grounding for me. As a TCK, we have people come and go, it’s very transient.

You can remember what kind of person you were in your life…it became a form of documentation for me.

Sharon Sevgi Ko Photography

What is your creative background?

I learned piano when I was five and quit in 8th grade. I didn’t like the classical style of piano. I played 5-12th the violin and played in orchestras. I would play violin and piano at church.

I also joined the choir in high school and went to this special honors choir and orchestra. That particular opportunity got me connected to a lot of other third culture kids. It was so cool to create art together even though we all lived in different parts of the world.

With visual art, I really liked drawing from a young age. My parents did not really have a wide perspective of art (they sort of just thought art meant drawing) so throughout the years my perspective grew. Right now I’m experimenting with printmaking, film photography, and film making.

Now that I am in college, I’m working on my final project for my Studio Art major. For this project, I’m experimenting with cyanotype and naturally dying fabric.

I love exploring different mediums because every medium has a specific process, in which I feel that I learn so much about life and God.

In a dark room, I find it such an image of how God molds and shapes you in the darkness and stillness. It’s so specific and detailed but God is such a part of it. The refining process. The developing process and our relationship with God. It takes you to the source. It doesn’t give you instant gratification…rather, you have to take your time, it grounds me in things other than the virtual and digital realm. I do love printmaking and film photography because you work with your hands.

In the act of making it I learn more and as I share it with the world I hope it instills hope and encouragement into the world.

Why do you make art?

First of all, I feel like I wouldn’t be who I am without it. It is something that God has instilled in us to partake in his creativity. We are made in his image and he is a creative God. We are all creative things and we create in different ways. For me, it is more visual art. It is a channel of reflection and expression.

I hold a lot of things in my heart and I have to let it all out. All the experiences and feelings I have I process through art. In the act of making, I learn more and as I share it with the world I hope it instills hope and encouragement into the world. It helps me think more deeply about myself and God about the world. It is something very cathartic and healing. Where I have experienced pain, trauma, and grief, I can channel these complex emotions toward creativity. Anger can even create hope and healing. So all the things that are going on in the world right now, I think the anger and grief I feel in this particular moment in time I’ve been channeling through art.

Relationships are also a form of art. Communication is an art form…creating that relationship together. In my convos and art making and relationship with God, anger and grief has channeled new energy and perspective into my life and hopefully brought others with me to lament, to seek justice and feel hope.

I did a lot of processing about my artistic process a few years ago and thought, “wow, why do I have to put myself out there? I don’t want it to be commercialized, but authentic…” I struggled with that a lot. 

Then one day at church I was praying and God told me, “you don’t have to put yourself out there. You put yourself in front of me.” The Holy Spirit wants to be a part of the WHOLE process…the thinking, planning, making, and storing of it. It shouldn’t be about us at the end of the day, but about God. It should come from a place of intimacy with God. I think that’s where genuine and life-giving art comes from. I was talking with a fellow artist the other day and telling how you can tell where the high school is in artwork. God gives us discernment in that way.

Sometimes we aren’t perfect and don’t do art for the Lord but that’s something I want to pursue making art for God and with God and not for my own gain.

What are some challenges of being an artist and a TCK?

Obviously going through transition you can’t take a lot of stuff with you and supplies look different. So that’s why I love photography.

Now that I’m in SB for a little while longer, I’m creating bigger pieces and being ok with letting them go. I always think everything will pass and everything I create is temporary, but hopefully, it reflects eternity. I don’t wanna have too strong of a hold on my art pieces.

Art is an extension of myself, but not fully who I am. I am who GOD says I am. I don’t want to get that confused. With sharing art with the world, in the digital world, it is easier to share your art with the world. I don’t wanna just have a show where no one else can experience it. I think more about how I can include my friends in Korea…in the EU…in Turkey. I try to think globally when I create—even with the mediums that I use.

Thematically, a lot of my art is about exploring identity in a transient world. Longing for belonging and what does home mean? What does it look like to be a global citizen and with the racial justice conversation? I’m a Korean woman in the USA, and being a global citizen gives a new lens to how I see the US situation. So having to sift through my experiences and mindset and how they shape me. I love portraying the unique stories of individuals because I know God’s heart for the one sheep.

I try to get to know people first so I can engage a more authentic way and more fully portray them. I often think about photographing the same people in different seasons and see how people are evolving and becoming more of who they’re called to be over time.