Western alumna transforms pain into beautiful art

Dec. 10, 2012

One of Inja Cho's paintings.Artist Inja Cho's work is typically very personal in nature. Obsessed with composition, texture, graphics and pattern, her favorite media include oil, ink, acrylic, gouache, watercolor and many experimental mixed media materials.

Cho moved to Michigan from South Korea to attend school in 1990 and lived in Ann Arbor, working as a teacher and graphic artist. She later studied fine art and painting at Western Michigan University and at the Studio Art Center International in Florence, Italy, through WMU Study Abroad. In 2005, she required emergency neurosurgery, which left her with an irreversible spinal cord injury and severe myelopathy and neuropathic pain.

Her exhibit Unbearable Sweetness of Being on display in the second floor gallery of the College of Health and Human Services until Dec. 21 is part of her  [COLD+HOT] SERIES that explores her ongoing struggle with the neuropathic pain on the entire left side of her body.

A goal of her art work is to find a true, meaningful way of depicting the sensations she feels daily, both emotional and physical. Sometimes she is standing in the burning embers of a fire and other times she is sitting on a block of ice. Often, it's a combination of both.

"As a person with high spirit and very positive views about life," she states, " I choose to tolerate the pain as a blessing—a blessing I have been given abundantly. It is a spontaneous transformation process of using unpleasant feelings to create something magnificent and beautiful."

Cho has been in her studio in downtown Kalamazoo since 2008. Her art is in corporate and private collections including WMU's Office of the President, Reed Photography Studio, Crescendo Music Academy, Hi-Tech Dental Laboratories Inc. and Liberty Steel Company. Her work can also be found in overseas collections.

Unbearable Sweetness of Being can be viewed from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. For more information, contact Gay Walker at (269) 387-3839 or gay.walker@wmich.edu.