Three paintings of Korean children on Target store paper grocery bags

Installation photo by Rik Sferra

Fall 2021 – May 2022
Edith Carlson Gallery

The Weisman Art Museum is pleased to present Megan Rye’s multi-part public art project of painting, installation, research, publishing and live events, Foundling: 100 Days. The exhibition will be on view in the Carlson Gallery beginning in fall 2021 – May 2022.

Comprised of one hundred painted and photographed portraits, Foundling is based in Rye’s own and her fellow international adoptees’ referral photographs. These images of waiting children—expressive faces returning the viewer’s gaze with a direct, unflinching stare—bear witness to who they were as foundlings, before given names, claimed by families, and traveling around the world to what the adoption community calls “forever homes.” Each image in this gallery-sized installation captures a transitional moment. The photographs originally taken for documentary purposes act as source and companion to the oil paintings on 12” x 19” paper bags. Engulfing the viewers, the portraits create a contemplative space that promotes empathetic consideration of the rich and varied lives celebrated by the portraits. Together, these works explore an experience never-before addressed in a comprehensive portrait exhibition: the complex identities generated and formed by the phenomenon of contemporary, international adoption.

A part of the University of Minnesota, WAM shares a mission with the University’s renowned Immigration History Research Center, the oldest and largest interdisciplinary research center and archives devoted to preserving and understanding immigrant and refugee life in North America. Equally committed to enlightening the public on the issues involved with human migration, WAM presents Foundling: 100 Days to shine a light on a very specific, and at times complicated, form of the immigration experience: international adoption

The title of the project and the one hundred pairs of images reference Baek-il, the age-old Korean practice of celebrating an infant on the 100th day after the child’s birth. On that 100th day, the family gives thanks to the spirit of childbirth for aiding the infant’s survival through the difficult earliest days of life and celebrates the baby’s and family’s good fortune. As Professor Matthew Fennel of Hanyang University in Seoul explains, even today the pre-modern reasons for the celebration are remembered and honored in wide-reaching fashion:

Traditionally the number 100 has a deep meaning of maturity in Korea; making it past the first 100 days was a sign that you would live to see your first birthday, and making it past your first birthday was a sign that you would make it out of infancy. Improvements in medicine, rapid development and modern industrialization have led to the Shamanistic reasons for the celebration being reduced. The event is still celebrated in modern day Korea as a time of congratulations for the parents and family, however it is important not to forget the traditions and meanings behind the celebration.

Not only has the traditional celebration endured, but the importance of the number one hundred resonates with meaning regarding personhood and responsibility. For Rye’s Foundling the number speaks to the days of becoming and also hints at the many stops on the long journey to the forever home.


ABOUT THE ARTIST

Megan RyeHeadshot of artist Megan Rye is a visual artist and teacher. She was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1975. Through paintings, drawings, photography, and artists books, Rye uses visual storytelling to explore themes of migration, citizenship, remembrance, war, and democracy.

Photo by Rik Sferra