Wish Upon a Star

Love and Wondervision Brings the Colorful Universe of JooYoung Choi to Houston

Her first institutional solo exhibition opens at the Moody Center for the Arts on May 25.

By Geneva Diaz May 10, 2023

Korea-born, Houston-based artist JooYoung Choi, who was adopted and raised in New Hampshire, explores the weighty topics of gender discrimination, belonging, race, trauma, and resilience in her first solo exhibit, Love and Wondervision, at the Moody Center for the Arts from May 25–August 26.

Through an imaginative and multifaceted universe filled with playful characters, the exhibit features new and recent work by Choi, including video, sculpture, painting, and installations. The centerpiece is Like a Bolt Out of the Blue, an installation starring a sentient bed named Pom Pom Thunder, whose magical sneakers enable her to travel on a superhighway of dreams as she seeks to reunite family members who have been separated by interplanetary conflicts.

Like a Bolt's title is adapted from the lyrics of “When You Wish Upon a Star,” the song written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington for Walt Disney’s 1940 classic animated film Pinocchio, reflecting Choi’s optimistic outlook and her own childhood experience of longing to meet her birth family.

Choi often explores issues of identity through her personal journey and research into the media’s representation of women, intersex, transgender, and non-binary people of color. Through the power of storytelling, her mythical world creates a space for healing in the wake of trauma and a platform for reclaiming and celebrating a sense of self.

“This exhibition explores the themes that are most important to me as an artist and a person,” Choi says. “Art and wonder have helped me find myself.”

Like a Bolt Out of the Blue

Image: Tom DuBrock

Visitors are invited to write their own wishes on paper stars and contribute them to the installation. In Choi’s universe, having the courage to articulate one’s hopes—a process Choi calls “big-time dreaming”—generates fuel for Pom Pom Thunder’s dream-trekking sneakers. Fueled by wishes, Pom Pom can leave the Moody at night to reunite lost parents with their children.

In the media gallery, Journey to the Cosmic Womb, Parts 1+2, and Spectra Force Vive: Infinite Pie Delivery Service—both created and edited by Choi—star original video collages of puppetry, animation, music, and live action. Each offers a glimpse into the artist’s universe and her influences, including Walt Disney movies, the Muppets, and Pee-wee’s Playhouse, as well as music ranging from rhythm and blues to punk rock.

Paintings further showcase Choi’s expansive fictional universe, called the “Cosmic Womb.” Somnioplexic Resonance features the character Prime Weaver, a cisgender female celestial spider who creates and protects a "tapestry of faith." By strumming the tapestry’s strings with her long blue legs, the spider creates music that restores hope, heals wounds, and amplifies the powers of those who listen. Choi’s very specific style reflects the popular culture of her childhood, including The Maxx comic book series, Marvel Universe Series 3 cards, and graphics of the original Nintendo Entertainment System.

Sculptural puppets of several characters featured in Choi’s videos and paintings will also be displayed in the galleries. There's Bunnie, a transgender female cybernetic rabbit from the future, and Sweet Slice, a professional "You Are Enough" coach who delivers "infinite pies" of truth and kindness.

“There is nothing else in this world that I want more than to spread this message,” Choi says. “That the creativity inside of us can bring us all on an incredible voyage that is led by love—the love of others who care for us and help us grow, and the love we give to others on this journey I call ‘Wondervision.’”

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