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Meet Annie Hong of Hootnannie Art in South Bay

Today we’d like to introduce you to Annie Hong.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Annie. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
My name is Annie Hong aka “Hootnannie” and I am a queer, gender-nonconforming, first-generation, Korean-American, intersectional feminist artist. I say this with pride now, but it hasn’t always been that way. When I was 18, I got the Bible verse “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” tattooed on my lower hip. I can’t help but laugh because the person I am now was this 18-year-old’s absolute worst nightmare. Ironically enough though, the truth really did set me free.

In my 20’s, I developed an obsession with the idea of Truth, and I now realize it’s because I’d spent the majority of my life running away from the truths of myself. A story quite common for many Asian-Americans, a list of values, truths, and options for my future were already laid out for me from an early age. And though art was my only constant and fulfilment in a tumultuous upbringing, pursuing art wasn’t on that list. Later on, I realized I was queer, and that definitely wasn’t on the list either. I lived out whatever aligned with the vision my Korean immigrant mother had of the prototypical Korean daughter and abandoned anything outside of that, including art. My journey as an artist and my obsession over Truth are intrinsically tied. As I started coming into my queerness, I started coming back to art again. The two fueled each other. Now that I look back, whenever I used to draw or make comics or paint, it was really just an outlet to be myself, because in every other arena I was running away from who I was.

Currently, I am a visual and graphic artist providing a wide range of creative services for domestic and international clients while also expanding my own personal body of work. I started off my professional artistic pursuits by exhibiting in local art shows in San Francisco, where I finally began to find my creative footing in a world I never thought was possible for me. My work then expanded into different avenues, such as body painting, installations, wearable art, and digital illustrations. My clients are typically people and organizations that not only resonate with my art and visual aesthetic, but with who I am and everything I stand for as a person. Art served as a catalyst for my expression during a time when I felt it was necessary to quell my truth to survive, and now it has become my vehicle in sharing my voice. My art is loud, bold, colorful, and in your face. It is an eruption of the joy that comes with the liberation of self. I found my truth, and it has set me free, and I paint this truth every single day as brightly and loudly and colorfully as I can.

Has it been a smooth road?
I actually gave up on my dreams of becoming an artist when I was 17 to pursue my mother’s dream for my life. In a Korean-American household, there are certain paths that are just laid out for you. You go to church, you never talk back, you get straight A’s, you obey with no questions asked. I did all these things very well, and it was destroying me. With that in mind, going from Bible studies, prayer circles, and youth retreats to becoming a queer intersectional feminist artist was definitely no smooth road. When I started to realize my queerness, I lived many dark years in self-hatred and disgust at who I was. Most people believe that ‘coming out’ is a single momentous moment, but it really isn’t. For me, it was a long arduous journey of self-acceptance and self-love, which was actually synchronous with my return back to art in my 20’s. This journey has shaped my art and molded my creative pursuits. The more joy I felt in my own existence, the more I created. The freedom I felt coming into my own skin, my truth, has been the biggest inspiration for the work I create and share.

Choosing art was my personal act of rebellion against the typical Asian-American narrative of giving up our dreams for the dreams of our parents, since their sacrifices for us were so monumental. Choosing art was choosing myself, and that initially felt wrong. Now, after many years of fighting ferociously to reclaim my truth, I finally know that choosing art and choosing myself is bigger than any dream my Korean immigrant mother could have possibly had.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I am a visual and graphic artist specializing in contemporary paintings and digital illustration. I moved to Seoul, South Korea five years ago where I was lucky enough to find a burgeoning creative industry and collaborate with some local artists there. I’ve participated in various group and solo exhibitions while solidifying my presence in the queer creative scene in Seoul. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have my work exhibited at the CICA Museum, Ara Art Museum, and the SF LGBT Center and be involved with events such as POW! WOW! Korea and Seoul Pride Fair. I moved back to California earlier this year so currently, I am working towards a solo exhibition for the upcoming year while building my clientele base in LA.

Recently, my projects have been more focused on digital creation. My work is known for its use of loud colors, repeated imagery, bold phrases, and a visually explosive yet inviting aesthetic that you can’t help but be drawn towards. I’ve noticed this tends to attract clients with larger-than-life personalities and presence, which I love! I’ve lived my whole life drawing, but being a self-taught artist is tough considering the amazing and talented competition out there. However, I definitely think who I am, what I stand for and how that shines through my art resonate with all the clients I’ve worked with. From album covers to logos to book illustrations, working with clients from various industries and spaces has been really cool because I’m able to contribute to the representation I desperately craved to see when I was younger. We urgently need more positive representation of women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ individuals in every industry and arena, and I’m fulfilling a lifelong promise to work towards this vision for myself and my community.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
LA has been going through an artistic renaissance for a minute now so as an artist, it’s a very exciting city to be in during this time. As a queer, BIPOC, female artist, it’s even more critical that our presence is here. This is the first time in modern history that the white heterosexual cis-male narrative which has dominated the art world has been challenged at this scale and intensity. A city like LA provides for more opportunities to connect with change-making creatives in sharing and amplifying voices of the marginalized and finding strength in community.

The scale of the city and the large personalities of the inhabitants can definitely be overwhelming at first. But once you get used to it, LA can provide vast access to resources and opportunities as a creative. It’s also massive, which allows space for new niches to materialize and be explored. Of course, no city is without its problems, but there is something for everyone in this city if you look hard enough. I grew up all over LA and I left this city during a time when I was discovering my own truth for my first time. I found and embraced my truth and am more resilient than ever, so I’m thrilled to be back in LA to share my art and color in the equally colorful city that raised me.

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Image Credit:

Celeste Kriel, Hyo Kim

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