As a child in elementary school in South Korea, Se Jong Cho witnessed a total eclipse, an experience she remembers vaguely but not with the same propulsive wonder that she saw the partial eclipse in 2017. Now a decorated scientist, Cho viewed that more recent eclipse with fresh eyes. Trained in observation-based earth sciences, Cho instinctively views all natural phenomena in great detail. The moment of an eclipse suddenly and dramatically reduces the way sunlight is cast on the earth, as only part of the planet is receiving solar radiation. Cho explains that moment a few years ago “really transported me out of this world and I was just filled with awe.”
It’s that wonder that has informed her latest body of work, Eclipse: Infinite Ending, which opened this spring at Catalyst Contemporary in Mount Vernon. This exhibition, which closed May 22, was timed to coincide with the vernal equinox, and Cho’s theme of the return of the light after a solar eclipse feels like an apt re-emergence of in-person exhibitions and limited-capacity gatherings as we enter what is hopefully the later stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the natural curiosity of a scientist, Cho laughs that she “gets inspired by everything.” She describes herself as a convergence of art and science, an artist and environmental scientist who wants to blur the boundaries between her fields through her compelling acrylic paintings.