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Gallery Nucleus is proud to celebrate Mulan with a tribute exhibition for the film’s 20th anniversary! As destiny would have it, when artist Jisoo Kim received the email asking her to be a part of the show, she was watching Mulan on Netflix. It was simply meant to be. 

If you are familiar with Nucleus, you’ve probably seen Jisoo’s work before. She has lent her talents to many of our past shows, including our Incredibles 2 Tribute Exhibition, our Disney Television Animation Tribute Exhibition, and Be Our Guest: An Art Tribute To Disney's Beauty and the Beast. After a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign, she published her first collection of illustrations, Kimchicat Vol. 1. Her newest piece for Gallery Nucleus, “Ballad of Mulan”, is a beautiful homage to the film, and we are thrilled to have been able to include it in this exhibition!

Can you talk a little bit about the inspiration behind your piece, and why you chose to depict that particular moment in Mulan's story?

There is a moment when she makes her decision to go against everything and everyone she knows. She gives a prayer to her ancestors with the hope of receiving their blessing and good fortune. To me this is the moment she was solidifying her conviction, and giving herself the courage to go on. Everyone has to make a decision like this at some point. Going against all the people you love and trust takes an immense amount of courage. Is this really the right thing to do? What if it all goes wrong, and I have nothing to show? But in the end it also gives you strength to carry on when things would be too difficult to continue.

Why do you think Mulan continues to resonate with audiences so profoundly, now twenty years after its release? 

I was talking with Helen Chen and Linda Chen, both distinguished and amazing Chinese-American animation artists, about how Mulan was the Disney movie that made them want to be in animation. As it was the first Disney Animation feature to have an Asian historic story and young Asian characters like ourselves, we were able to truly put ourselves into Mulan's shoes. Those strong impressions that were made when we were young seemed to stay with us for a long time.

What, or who, have been your biggest influences on the journey to becoming an artist? 

My favorite movie to this day is Whisper of the Heart, a Ghibli movie by Yoshifumi Kondo. There's a quote in the movie where the grandfather encourages the main character, "I have seen the light of the jewel inside your heart. You are wonderful. There is no need to rush. Please take your time to polish your talent.” It makes me cry every time. This beautiful quote gave me strength when I was young, and now it has an even deeper meaning: For a paper at CalArts, I wrote about the late Yoshifumi Kondo. He passed away at the young age of 47, and it was said to be because of overwork…The balance between work and life, and keeping your mental and physical health in check, is always a struggle for many artists. 

Why does animation, in particular, have the ability to connect so deeply with viewers?

Stories will always draw people in whatever art form it uses, but I particularly love animation [because] the simplicity in drawing and creating everything you see on the screen has a poetic, hidden delicacy to it. Because it is a created art, it can mean so much more, and draw in so many people and have them relate much more easily. 

And finally, what are you working on these days? 

During the day I'm at Warner Brothers on the new Harley Quinn show. During the nights I climb, and I'm hoping to publish a book inspired by climbing soon.

Jisoo Kim lives in Los Angeles. She has studied at CalArts and Korea National University of Arts. A hugely accomplished artist and passionate about animation, Jisoo has worked for Disney, Dreamworks, and Frederator Studios. Prints of “Ballad of Mulan” are available on our website. Follow Jisoo on Instagram @jisookimcat and on Twitter @jisooK. 

Stop by Gallery Nucleus through November 4th to check out our Tribute Exhibition For Mulan’s 20th Anniversary!

Written by Lila Selle


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