Inspired by her artistic relatives, Soobin Choi ’18 first started drawing in middle school. In high school, she began taking art classes to hone her skills. She created charcoal drawings as well as oil, acrylic and mixed-media paintings. Originally determined to study architecture in college, Choi showed an early creative streak, but also a desire to use her artistic talents for practical purposes.
At Macalester, Choi immediately displayed her outside-the-box thinking by incorporating influences from the natural world. In a sculpture class she took as a first year, she was asked to create her own interpretation of a lantern. She inverted the concept of a lantern by having her piece reflect natural light, instead of projecting its own light. By attaching tinted, translucent fabric and transparent CDs to string that she hung on a wooden frame, she assembled a device that catches beams of light and bounces them off its different components.
Choi’s lantern illustrated “the contrast between organic and natural forms and structural, architectural forms,” which became an overarching theme in much of her work. Although recently she has been creating more utilitarian art, she still finds inspiration from nature.
Later in college, Choi discovered a love for graphic design and digital media, exploring the real-world applications of these mediums. “I’m really into applying graphic design in a way that can be used as a tool to inform the public or make a study or a set of data more approachable and readable,” Choi explained. Even though Macalester does not offer many courses in this area, she was able to explore advanced graphic design when studying at a design school in Singapore.
For one of her classes, she produced an infographic for a zero waste campaign in Singapore, where composting is not yet a familiar part of life. She first surveyed people on their waste-related habits, learning how often they recycle and compost. After conducting research, she made a proposal for how people could alter their lifestyles to reduce waste, and visualized what the environmental benefits of these changes would be.
She also took a 3D animation course, which she found to be far more tedious and labor-intensive than she anticipated. “I made a one-minute animation for my final project,” she said. “It involved pulling a lot of all-nighters just to render clips, so I can’t imagine what making an entire animated movie would be like.” When asked if she would continue 3D animation in the future, she replied, “That was enough for me.”
Overall, Choi feels that her time in Singapore was valuable in learning what mediums she most enjoys. Being surrounded by students producing professional-quality graphic design work also pushed her to improve her skills in graphic design.
Choi is currently in the beginning stages of planning her senior show, which will be a cartography piece. This is a natural choice, seeing that she majors in geography in addition to studio art. As you can imagine, she plans to give the project more creative flair than a work of traditional map making. “There’s some cartography where information is prioritized over artistic design,” she explained. “But for my senior thesis, I’m trying to blur the lines and focus on map art where some of the details may be compromised to create a more visually dynamic and interesting product.”
To prepare for the project, she has started collecting data about the places she visits each day. Although she is still exploring how to visualize this information, it’s safe to say that the final product won’t be your typical map.
Besides being involved in art through her coursework, Choi is part of a public art evaluation at her internship with Metro Transit. Her team is surveying transit users about how they view art along transit ways, such as the Blue and Green Lines. She also works as an assistant graphic designer at Macalester’s Communications Office, and volunteered as a floor salesperson at Artability, an exhibition that showcases art by people with mental illnesses.
In her free time, Choi enjoys watching soccer, which she used to play until she got injured playing on an intramural team three semesters ago. She also likes to travel, and went on a backpacking trip in Europe the summer before her junior year.
When asked what advice she has for current or potential art majors, she encouraged students to actively explore media outside of fine arts in order to diversify the art department. She also added, “Don’t go cheap on art supplies.”