Haejae Debbie Oh

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Ouroboros (2023). 45 X 45 cm. Mixed media.
(The background is colored with the silver glitter marker.)

The ouroboros is an ancient symbol of a serpent or dragon eating its own tail. It is a symbol of an everlasting cycle or a cycle of life, death, and rebirth. The ouroboros symbolizes eternity or cyclicality. It is the sense of something constantly re-creating itself. Like the phoenix, it symbolizes cycles that begin again as soon as they end. Even if the ouroboros entered Western tradition via ancient Egyptian iconography and the Greek magical tradition, it was depicted in the shape of an Eastern dragon in this artwork.

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Buddha's Footprint
Buddha's Footprint (2021). 36 X 48 cm. Mixed media. Buddha’s footprints (‘Buddhapada’ in Sanskrit) are Buddhist icons shaped like an imprint of Gautama Buddha’s foot (or both feet). According to Buddhist legend, after the Buddha attained enlightenment, his feet made an imprint in the stone where he stepped. Buddha’s footprints, therefore stand for the grounding of the transcendent. It symbolizes the Buddha’s presence; they are believed to be the imprints where the Buddha actually touched the ground; and his absence upon having entered nirvana. In this artwork, I reinterpreted Buddha’s footprints from my unique perspective, paying particularly attention to the fact that they have spread and developed in various cultural areas. For example, the Swastika, a representative symbol of Buddhism, appears not only in Buddhism but also in various cultures, ethnic groups, and religions around the world. Here, it was expressed by taking inspiration from the ancient Celtic version.
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Moonlit Night
Moonlit Night (2020). 42 X 59 cm. Mixed media. The moon is an enduring symbol of truth and enlightenment; like water and women, it also signifies rebirth and vitality. Like the moon, mushrooms engender life in moist and dark places, and maintain their strong vitality.
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Crown Shyness
Crown Shyness (2023). 45.5 X 45.5 cm. Mixed media. (The background is colored with the golden glitter marker.) Crown shyness is a feature observed in some tree species, in which the crowns of fully stocked trees do not touch each other, instead forming a canopy with channel-like gaps. This is most prevalent among trees of the same species, but also occurs between trees of different species. There exist many hypotheses as to why crown shyness is an adaptive behavior, and research suggests that it might inhibit spread of leaf-eating insect larvae. This social distancing among trees reminds me of the value of coexistence, consideration, and harmony.
Work Credit: 

Haejae Debbie Oh is a South Korean self-taught artist, office worker and writer. She graduated from Ewha Womans University with both BA and MA degrees. Without any formal education in art, she has drawn illustrations since 2014. Starting with the Asia Contemporary Art Show (2019, Hong Kong), she has joined various domestic and foreign art events. She won the Gold Prize (Artist Group) for the “World Charity Painting Competition: Fight COVID-19” (2020, Singapore), and was chosen as the “artist of the 1st selection” for the 3rd COCA Project (2021, Italy). In 2023, she was awarded a “special selection” prize for the 3rd Buddhist & Folk Painting Competition in South Korea, as well as the 2nd Prize of the Outsider Art VR Exhibition in Hong Kong; she also became a selected artist for the Climate Art Collection (CAC) in Germany in the same year. She has been working at the Korean National Commission for UNESCO since 2007, and wrote two artbooks: I Am a Self-taught Artist (2021), and The Bookshelf of the Self-taught Artist: Reading the Outsider Art (2022). She also regularly contributes art critiques and columns. Based on her long-standing international work experiences and MA degree (multicultural/intercultural studies), she is eager to blend oriental and occidental cultures through her art. 

New York (Manhattan)
United States



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