Every week, The Mac Weekly sits down with a senior arts major. This week we caught up with studio art major Jon Straker. He hails from Lacrosse, Wisconsin and was adopted from Korea.
What kinds of art do you do?
I don’t have a specific medium I always focus on, but I enjoy working with my hands. I like taking sculpture, 3D design, ceramics and painting.
How did you first get interested in art?
I grew up as an only child, so as a kid I would make a lot of art. I started taking art classes in middle school.
What do you most enjoy about making art?
I like the therapeutic value of making art. I can focus on making a piece of art and block out everything else. It’s a de-stresser. But there are some pieces of art that I make more for the finished product than for the experience of making it. The process of making art and seeing the final product are both rewarding.
What is your creative process when you make art?
I usually have a concept that I’m drawn to emotionally. In some classes you get a prompt, which gives you ideas. I sometimes look up images on the internet for references or inspiration.
What kind of themes show up in your art?
I’m adopted and I didn’t really think about being adopted and what that really means and the implications of it until after studying abroad in Korea. I started thinking about my racial identity and my identity as a whole as an adopted person. My art since then has centered around the theme of adoption. My art shows the dark side of adoption. I want my art to reflect things that aren’t talked about and to confront people with them. Adoption is always promoted as being a super positive thing, but I am critical of aspects of adoption like the societal pressure on single Korean mothers to put kids up for adoption as well as the monetary aspects of the adoption industry.
I did a web comic for Gazillion Voices, a magazine based in the Twin Cities that helps promote awareness and activism around social justice issues. Gazillion Voices branched off from the organization Land of Gazillion Adoptees, which was a platform for adoptees to talk about their life experiences. The comic was about growing up as an adopted Asian person in a predominantly white community.
Did you study abroad?
I studied abroad in Seoul, South Korea. It was my second time being back in Korea since being adopted. I mostly took courses on Korean culture and language. It was nice to be back in my birth country and to try to reconnect with my roots. It was interesting to be in an area where most people looked like me, since I grew up in a very white community.
Are you involved in anything else at Mac?
I’m part of the Transracial/Transnational Adoptees Identity Collective, which gives me an opportunity to have discussions with other adoptees who have had similar experiences.
What are your interests and hobbies besides art?
I like watching Korean movies. I also do Gundam plastic model kits, which are model robots from a Japanese television program that you assemble.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about majoring in studio art?
All the professors are great, but just know it’s a major time commitment to get a good grade and get the results you want.