Metropolitan spaces like New York are centers of cultural, social, and economic prowess and growth. Such cities allow people to explore some of the greatest aspects of modern life. But among all the hustle and bustle, the millions of individual people, and the plethora of possibilities for what to do and who to be, city life can become oppressively overwhelming. There are a multitude of ways to handle the strain of urban living, and disparate coping methods are utilized in different ways, as evidenced by Regina Escobedo and Chaewon Lim in Dreamscape/Escape. High population density is an inevitable part of existing within a big city. In such environments, you are constantly surrounded by people, which creates two seemingly contradictory dilemmas: voicelessness–the sense that you are one small insignificant mass among all the other bodies–and loneliness–a feeling of isolation heightened by vast quantities of individuals who constantly surround you but with whom you have no personal connection. Escobedo’s artistic practice confronts these issues by asserting her individuality within her unique, painted depictions of New York, viewing each of her works as a self-portrait that resembles a journal entry. Her 2021 mixed media piece, “MY Times Square,’’ gives the viewer access to Escobedo’s mind, showing a fraction of the city through her perspective and providing a whimsical, dream-like escape from reality.
Inspired by the serenity of nature, Lim’s works provide a peaceful escape from the overwhelming, bustling city. She focuses on meditation in her sculptures as a means of creating this calming atmosphere. Mindfulness is an active part of her practice, from the art-making process to the interaction between art and audience. Lim practices mindfulness by experimenting with a combination of traditional and nontraditional materials, such as Korean Hanji paper and baking ingredients. She also utilizes minimal, solid colors to reduce the human-made quality of her works. Her sculptures instill tranquility in the viewer, but, when considered within the context of their display in a metropolis, they also connect nature to the anxieties of city life. The focus on nature in Lim’s works and their relationship to New York City evokes environmental-related issues present in large cities such as rapid urbanization and living in a fabricated environment. Lim’s minimalist works provide a means of escaping those concerns by returning the viewer to the calm of a natural environment and by encouraging internal reflection.
While Lim’s works are more compositionally simplistic, focus on nature, and provide the viewer with a sense of calm, Escobedo’s works are more compositionally elaborate, primarily focus on city life, and endow the viewer with a sense of surrealist wonder. Despite these differences, their artistic practices have a common ground: they both employ art to cope with city life. Dreamscape/Escape puts works by Escobedo and Lim in conversation, raising questions about how living in one city can create a similar need for escapism, and how that necessity can be mediated through entirely different practices.