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Exploring Third Culture Kid identity through art

UpRoot, by Grace Kim
Grace Kim

Grace Kim

Unstable, uneasy, uncomfortable. That’s how 25-year-old TCK artist Grace Kim describes her installation on Third Culture Kid identity.

Human hair and jute string span from floor to ceiling, fluttering and constantly shifting, like the unstoppable movement of a Third Culture Kid. As the viewer walks through the narrow tunnel, Kim wants a journey through identity exploration to unfold.

“I wanted the person who experiences the piece to feel unstable,” Kim said. The artwork moves and gives as it is touched. “I want them to feel uneasiness like you don’t belong there, or feel a bit uncomfortable.”

Kim's TCK Installation

Kim's TCK Installation

Adding to the visceral, tangible nature of the installation, there is human hair — of Third Culture Kids — incorporated into the piece.

“The human hair portrays the identity, and added to the whole aspect of feeling uneasy, like hair in your food — disgusted.”

Kim was born in South Korea, has lived in Pakistan, China, Kenya and California, and now lives in Canada.

As a 6th grader, she separated from her nomadic parents and moved to California, where she graduated high school. When she enrolled in Trinity Western University, majoring in art, she began to notice how different she was from all the other students.

“People would ask you, ‘Where are you from?’ and I’d sit there, kind of pause, and not know what to say,” Kim said. “I started to give people different answers at one point.”

Tell Me Your Story, by Grace Kim

Tell Me Your Story, by Grace Kim

The first year of university was tough for Kim, but her faith helped her arrive at a conclusion she was happy with. She graduated in 2007.

“Over the years I’ve kind of discovered that I belonged nowhere and everywhere,” she said. “I just came to a place within myself where I was ok with that.”

Her visual art is the result of this identity exploration.

UpRoot, by Grace Kim

UpRoot, by Grace Kim

“Third Culture Kids are such a global people,” Kim says. “They serve as a middle people between cultures. They’re the bridge, and once they figure that out, they will realize it is something they can use for good.”

Kim is currently pursuing her Master’s in teaching English. You can see more of her artwork on her website.

Are you a TCK artist? Please drop us a note at steph@denizenmag.com.

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