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Joint Exhibition Crosses Borders, Makes Connections

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"Joyous" by Stephen Hirshon and "Earth" by Yongtaek Lee

A new exhibit in the HUB-Robeson Galleries featuring the photography of Penn State Art History alumnus Stephen Hirshon and the paintings of Yongtaek Lee, art educator and visiting scholar at Penn State, had its beginnings in turkey and kimchi.

The artists’ sons met in an English as a Second Language class where Elliot Hirshon was the instructor and David Lee was a student. The young men hit it off and encouraged their families to share a traditional American Thanksgiving and Korean dinner. Stephen and Yongtaek had some difficulties communicating in their native languages, but they connected when they realized they could understand one another by sharing their respective photographs and paintings.

The exhibit, Crossing Borders: A Conversation, will be on display September 11–December 8. A reception, open to the public, will be held October 17, 5–7 p.m., and will feature a vibraphone performance by Penn State music students Jeffery Glover and James Rivera.

According to Dr. Hirshon, the combination of his photograph, “Joyous,” and Yongtaek’s painting, “Earth,” both pictured here, is a “quintessential depiction of the artistic rapport that Yongtaek and I developed working together for over a year-and-a-half on this exhibit. In this process of joining our different cultural traditions—Western and Eastern—we have created a happy synergy between the respective values of individualism and community.”

Yongtaek Lee agrees, noting the exhibit represents “the fruits of the conversations” between the two artists. “Through this two-artist exhibit, I am appreciating the joy of being simultaneously both the artist and the viewing audience. … It is my hope that the viewer will be able to recreate additional conversations that cross borders through the dialogue of our text.”

Hirshon and Lee envision their first joint show as an opportunity to learn more about each other through their art. In April 2013, in the midst of their preparations, they gave introductory remarks when the traveling exhibit Artists as Peacemakers, organized by the International Committee of Artists for Peace (ICAP), opened at the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center. They cited an ICAP publication that summarized their views on the power of art: “Art communicates across ethnic and national boundaries—art creates connections. Though the power of art and artists is often overlooked, the role of artists is critical to building what the United Nations calls a culture of peace. … Everything that is needed to build a culture of peace already exists in each of our hearts.”

For more information on Crossing Borders and other exhibits in the HUB-Robeson Galleries, visit