Pigs and memories at the Hugh McPeck gallery

The current show at the Hugh McPeck Art Gallery in UAA’s Student Union is an interactive exhibit examining memory and cultural perceptions of certain objects.

“Neon Guardians’ Invisible Traits” was conceived by California-based artist So Jung Park. The exhibit’s sparse focus is several pink or green transparent piggy banks, a few small drawings and a banner of a half pig head, half piggy bank impaled on a stake.

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A piggy bank at So Jung Park's "Neon Guardians' Invisible Traits" exhibition at UAA's Hugh McPeck gallery. Photo credit: Ammon Swenson

Visitors are instructed to write memories they want to either remember or forget on provided slips of paper and place them in the corresponding piggy bank.

“I was just interested in piggy banks and how the image of the pig referenced different cultural meanings versus Asia and Western [societies],” Park said.

In her home country of South Korea, pigs can represent prosperity, while in America they can be seen as a symbol of greed. Playing on this theme of pigs and wealth, Park wanted show the value of memories over money.

“You don’t have to think about it too deeply, I think,” Jessika Brocker, a nursing student at UAA, said.

Brocker stopped by the opening reception for “Neon Guardians’” on July 25 and was reluctant to say what memories she put into the piggy banks.

“Oh, that’s kind of personal.”

When asked if there was anything she might get out of adding a memory to the collection, Brocker wasn’t thinking about some sort of cathartic release.

“I imagine that someone will read it eventually and maybe be able to relate to it,” Brocker said.

Park doesn’t have any immediate plans for the memories, but she hopes to recreate this exhibit in South Korea and eventually compare the responses from the two shows.

The drawings Park sent along with her piggy banks were representations of her perceptions of pigs. Some drawings are attached to mirrors so the viewer can look at the illustration and see themselves reflected in the piece.

Park’s most recent show was also interactive. She used video and lights reflecting through clear Mylar in a space that allowed viewers to walk around and fully experience the entire exhibit.

For this show, she wanted to do something similarly engaging for the viewer.

“I want them to feel like [they’re] part of the show,” Park said.

Park is the most recent winner of UAA’s annual “No Big Heads” self portrait competition which won her this current exhibition. She’s a recent graduate of CalArts and has lived in Northern Virginia and Sydney, Australia. She considers herself a painter, but was exposed to different mediums through her art school instructors.

The “No Big Heads” exhibition is unique in that it’s UAA’s only national exhibition, according to Sarah Haley of Student Life and Leadership.

“I think it’s cool, because this is an artist you may not see normally,” Haley said. “Usually we host students or Anchorage community clubs, organizations. So, I think it’s pretty cool to see what someone from another state can send up and display.”

“Neon Guardians’ Invisible Traits” will be on display until Aug. 15.