The Art League Presents Soomin Ham Sound of Butterfly

By Editorial Team on November 7, 2016

Wed, 09 November 2016 - Sun, 04 December 2016

Back to Heaven series, 12x18", photograph. Courtesy of The Art League.
Back to Heaven, 12×18″, photograph. Courtesy of The Art League.


Opening Reception: Thursday, November 10 from 6:30pm to 8pm


Artist Soomin Ham uses her experimental style of photography, video, and sound to reflect on her mother’s journey through life, depression, and death in her solo exhibit, Sound of Butterfly. By washing and freezing family photographs and objects, or capturing already faded images in freshly fallen snow, her process draws clear parallels between the ephemeral qualities of nature, the cycle of life, and memory.

Ham never intended to create this body of work, let alone share it with the world. Photographing her mother’s favorite pieces of clothing, journals, family photos, and even her mother’s fingerprint on a jar began as a way for Ham to capture these precious memories before they disappeared. The process she developed to preserve these cherished objects and moments became a labor or love, a gift back to her mother, and a way for Ham to process her grief and heal.

“With my grief, I started collecting the scattered memories that I shared with her. Finding them from family photo albums and in the belongings she left behind was painful, but I found myself feeling even more gratitude of her love, passion, dreams, and other things that she shared with me. Throughout the whole process of creating this body of work, I was able to understand and embrace my grief by following the path of my mother’s journey.”

While her works revolve around “personal but universal subjects,” Ham hopes that viewers will find reflections of their own personal history in her work.

Frozen Moment, photography series:
Ham photographed many of the special belongings her mother left behind as well as moments that reflect time and place of her mother’s presence. Ham placed these images in a 4”x4” box with water in a freezer. Each frozen picture was re-photographed on a light box. The series documents and preserves moments and objects that would have perished, or like memory, would have faded away.

Back to Heaven, photography series:
This series presents soft, blurry images of old photographs of Ham’s mother. Family photos were either scanned or re-photographed and then printed on rice paper. The rice-paper prints were then stored in water for a period of time, and then washed and dried repeatedly until the images grew dim. She placed the prints outside during snowfall, and re-photographed just as the images began to disappear under fallen snow.

Sound of Butterfly, video/sound series:
The Sound of Butterfly series incorporates footage from old family movies and Korean ancestral rituals (Jaesa) along with music to create dreamlike moving images. Ham wanted to collect her happiest childhood memories and couple it with music, one of her most enduring muses.

Silent Echo, video/sound series:
Capturing the darker side of depression, Silent Echo consists of audio recordings and narrations by Ham and her daughter, which chronicle her mother’s journey of depression and death. The piece includes audio from Ham’s mother.

Soomin Ham is a photographer and multimedia artist based in Washington, DC. Ham received a Bachelor of Music in orchestral instrument from Ewha Women’s University in Seoul, Korea and her Master of Art in photography and multimedia from New York University/International Center of Photography in New York. Her works including multimedia installations, photography, and mixed media have been exhibited from Washington DC, to New York, to Seoul, Korea. Ham was selected for the Art and Community Visual Arts Residency at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Art in Wilmington, DE and received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2002. She was a recipient of DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities Grants including an Individual Artists Fellowship Grant in 2003 and Small Projects Grant in 2001. Ham is a member of The Art League, Multiple Exposures Gallery, and an Associate Artist at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, VA.

Gallery Hours:

  • Daily, 10:00 am–6:00 pm
  • Open Thursdays until 9:00 pm
  • Sundays, 12:00 noon–6:00 pm

*The Torpedo Factory may close at 5:00 pm for events. Please check Today’s Hours to see if this affects your visit.

The exhibition is located at 105 North Union St., Studio 21, Alexandria, VA. For more information visit or call 703-683-1780