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Artist Misoo Filan gets personal in her portraits

"Surrounded," Misoo Filan's large acrylic and mixed media on panel, depicts a woman lying on her back naked in a sepia-toned forest. Atop her, with one leg on either side of her belly is a baby sucking on her breast.

The eyes of the woman, whose long hair is flowing around her head, look skyward. Deer, cows, ducks and other animals, some brightly colored, stand by watching as the baby seems to be sucking the last bit of energy from her exhausted mother's body.

The work addresses Filan's concerns about taking care of herself so she can continue to care for her 3-year-old daughter.

"One of my fears is: What if I die? What if I get hurt or am immobile? Who's going to take care of Lily?" the 32-year-old Boca Raton artist reveals. "So I made these imaginary animals around me, like I was calling them. They're not real, so I made them unrealistic colors and sizes and was asking them to come and please help her."

Filan, who is part of "Tap Into Miniature," a group exhibit that has been showing at The Art Place Wynwood in Miami, began turning to her art in a time of need at age 18. She had been living with her father in Korea for most of her life, and when he died, she had to move to New Jersey to live with her mother, a woman she says she didn't know very well.

Completing her senior year in a new high school proved difficult. "I didn't know anybody, and I wasn't speaking good English," Filan says.

She felt lonely and depressed. In addition to her other struggles, Filan had been diagnosed as diabetic the year before her father died. When her art teacher invited her to spend lunch breaks painting in the art room, she gladly accepted.

"Painting made me feel better," she says. "It made me concentrate on painting and not on my dad or my situation."

Filan says her mother would only support her becoming a doctor. So she shelved her drawing and painting and after three years of pre-med met the man she would marry. He encouraged her to pursue her dreams and assured her he would support her in doing so.

While Filan's earlier works were darker and reflected girls who were alone or imprisoned by situations, her new palette grew brighter, and included bunnies. In one painting, a girl who is unsmiling and looking a little unsure holds a bunny in her cupped hands.

Motherhood brought a different kind of bunny into Filan's works. Bunny Man, a human disguised as a colorful but dangerous rabbit, represents Filan's worries about not being able to protect her daughter.

In "Twinkle Twinkle," which depicts a pregnant woman, Bunny Man is leering over her shoulder. His dark arms reach around her and down toward the baby inside her. The mother appears to have no arms.

Filan's concerns continue to make their way into her works, many of which deal with the pressures of being a mother, wife, student and artist.

Filan will appear at Armory Art Center in West Palm Beach at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 22 to talk about her works.

Colleen Dougher operates the South Florida arts blog Arterpillar.


What: "Tap Into Miniature"

When: 1-7 p.m. Monday

Where: The Art Place Wynwood, 2722 NW Second Ave., Miami

Cost: Free

Contact: 786-709-1842

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