Arts District

Blind Balloon Artist HongSeok Goh Shows Off Massive Work at AVAM

South Korea artist creates one-of-a-kind installation at the American Visionary Art Museum.

By Ron Cassie | December 11, 2017, 6:02 pm

Arts District

Blind Balloon Artist HongSeok Goh Shows Off Massive Work at AVAM

South Korea artist creates one-of-a-kind installation at the American Visionary Art Museum.

By Ron Cassie | December 11, 2017, 6:02 pm


Get Baltimore Daily.

Sign up today and you'll get our latest stories delivered straight to your inbox every weekday afternoon.

“I cannot see you and I cannot see the sculpture,” blind South Korean balloon artist HongSeok Goh told the crowd gathered at the American Visionary Art Museum hours after he recently completed a massive, four days-long balloon installation—more than 20 feet long and 15 feet tall—inside the museum’s warehouse barn. “But it makes my heart pump harder.”

Making his first installation in the U.S., Goh said that his work was inspired by AVAM’s current mega exhibition, The Great Mystery Show. He described his piece as a metaphor for the universe, envisioning and building a bold, enormous elephant standing over a sprawling tortoise. The vastness of the universe is represented by the immense elephant, Goh explained, and the passage of time by the slow-moving, imperturbable turtle.

The four colors of the legs of the elephant—red, blue, white, and black—highlight the colors of his country’s flag. A dragon’s head and gaping mouth perched at the end of its trunk symbolizes the human imagination.

Goh arrived in Baltimore with his wife and a small team of assistants, whom he calls his “Korean Balloon Avengers,” courtesy of a South Korean grant. They went an extra mile or two to keep the sculpture up for several weeks, literally inflating a balloon inside each balloon, adding a sealant as well. Goh said through an interpreter that he slept just two to three hours a night to complete the project .

One reason he likes to make balloon sculptures, Goh says, is that his works are inevitably temporary, and the process of inflating air into something beautiful that slowly fades away signifies “the ephemeral life of all things and the greater cycle of Nature.” Another reason is that his pieces make the air that surrounds people—which they cannot see, as he cannot see—suddenly visible.

Goh was also helped by Los Angeles-based balloon artist Addi Somekh, who has been twisting balloons for 26 years. “This is not normal ballooning,” Somekh said. “He’s had to invent new ways of doing things out of necessity and it is incredibly precise and sophisticated. And make no mistake, he is doing the work and directing us,” Somekh added. “He goes from the intricate work of the dragon’s head to the rear of the elephant and knows just where everything is. It is not like he’s partially sighted, either. I’ve seen him ask his wife a question and watch her make a few lines in the palm of his hand, but that’s it.”

As a teenager, Goh contracted a virus that began to destroy the optical nerves in his eyes. Now 46, he has been blind for almost 25 years. As a young man, he described himself as athletic, an avid baseball player, soccer player, and cyclist with no artistic training or interest. “I began to twist balloons when I was 28, so I could have a job to do for the rest of my life.”

The installation is expected to remain up this week and next inside AVAM’s Anita Roddick Tall Sculpture Barn.

Meet The Author
Ron Cassie is a senior editor for Baltimore, where he covers the environment, education, medicine, politics, and city life

You May Also Like

Arts District

Culture Club: Jack Whitten, CityLit, and #RiseBmore

Our monthly roundup of openings, events, and news from the art world.

Arts District

WTMD Announces 2018 First Thursday Concerts

Starting on May 3, this annual festival includes a lineup of local and national talent.

Arts & Culture

Carla Du Pree of CityLit Project Talks Local Literary Scene

Du Pree says one of her goals is to make literary art more inclusive and accessible to all communities.


Oscar Predictions 2018

After last year's game-changing win by Moonlight, the Oscars are wide open.

On The Town

Ten Things to Look Out for at the New Hotel Revival in Mt. Vernon

The new 14-story property features private karaoke rooms and panoramic views.

Arts District

New Reginald F. Lewis Museum Exhibit Features MICA Artists of Color

Exhibit highlights diversity at renowned art school.

Connect With Us

Most Read

The Land of Kush Owners Win Grant to Make Restaurant Cashless : Husband-and-wife team win $10,000 from Visa to help launch strictly digital sale system.

Miss Gay Maryland Pageant Returns for its 34th Year: Drag queens show off personalities and talents in this trailblazing competition.

The Big Baltimore Playlist: April 2018: The top five local songs you should download right now.

Post Typography Creates Underwater Art Piece For Light City’s Art Walk: Baltimore design agency teams up with PI.KL Studio and Figure 53 for installation.

Open & Shut: Sacré Sucré Coming Soon; The Emporiyum Takes a Break; In Bloom Closes: The latest restaurant openings, closings, and recent news.