This is the first of four interviews spotlighting some of the talented individuals behind the pieces they submitted to Mad in America’s “Beyond Labels and Meds: What It Feels Like to Be Me” art exhibition. Each contributor was asked the same questions about themselves, their perspectives, and the inspiration and intention behind their work. This blog series will run each Tuesday for the next month.

“A Grasp at Knowledge” by HoJin Kwak

Title: “A Grasp at Knowledge”
Medium: pencil and charcoal (dry pastels)
Artist: HoJin Kwak
Age 14, New Jersey

What do you want the world to know about what it is like being a teen today?
HoJin Kwak

As I get older, life gets harder; school hours get longer, the workload becomes larger, and important extracurriculars pop up left and right. I’m sure my life as an adult will be infinitely harder than it is now. But so far, being a child is much easier than being a teen. Maybe that’s why so many teenagers have bad tempers: they’ve finally realized that it’s just all downhill from here.

Please tell us about your drawing. What inspired it? What is its main message? What would you like readers to know about it?

The original idea for my drawing started with the brain. The complexity of its sudden twists and curves fascinates me. The meaning behind my art is that there are so many things around us fighting for influence in our heads that it becomes incredibly hard to find any semblance of inner peace.

What are some of your biggest stressors and how do the arts help you cope with them?

I have to deal with some pretty common stressors for people my age; I worry about other people’s opinions of me, my grades, test scores, etc. Art gives my hands something to do so I can be truly carefree. While I’m drawing or painting, I don’t have to worry about what is going on around me.

Do you have other art pieces in any medium that we can include with your interview?

Sure. It’s called “Hand-Eye Coordination” because I thought it was a funny name. It’s done with acrylic paint and does have a little bit of (painted) blood in it.

“Hand-Eye Coordination” by HoJin Kwak


MIA Reports are supported, in part, by a grant from The Thomas Jobe Fund.


  1. This is SO WRONG! Young Mr. Hojin Kwak puts his art & teenage experience on view for the world to see, and, (ok, maybe only a teeny, tiny fraction of 1% of the world will actually see this, but still, at age 15, NOBODY KNEW ME AT ALL…..)….
    So, HoJin Kwak, you’ve got a pretty good start on your art! We only see 2 pieces here, and they could both be over a year old. I know that if you keep at it, even occasionally, your art skills WILL IMPROVE…. I like that you are trying to “say something”, in addition to doing art-for-the-sake-of-art…..
    I totally get what you mean about the “downhill from here” part, but please believe me. THAT’S A LIE! Sure, you might believe that now, but, HOW DO YOU KNOW that your life will go “downhill”?…. Because some stupid adult told you that? And you believed them? Relax, most teens fall for the same trap. Try a slight shift in perspective: Take the next 10 years: By age 25 or 6, you will be a fully matured (physically!) adult. Probably with at least 1 Bachelor’s degree, maybe even a Master’s or PhD. Job. Spouse. Car. Motorcycle. Own apartment or house. Money in the bank. Crypto in your smartphone wallet. Whatever.
    Why should that suck? Like, people in their 50’s, 60’s, & older are REALLY BUMMED?….
    Some are, yeah, but not most. Expressing yourself through art, and creativity of ALL KINDS, is one of the best things you can do. And read some Dalai Lama. You CAN CHOOSE to BE HAPPY…. Finally, remember, the PEAK of hand-to-eye coordination is only reached by practice, training, and experience. Years of it! You’re just a teenaged kid. Compared to a Grandpa old fart like me! And I’m happy! You can be, too.
    I’m sorry nobody ELSE commented here in the last week….
    See if you can write a guest blog here?….
    (….i especially like the “neuron eye” in “Hand-to-Eye…”….)…..
    At least you’re not likely to fall prey to the pseudoscience lies of the drug racket & social control mechanism known as “psychiatry”….
    KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK, and WELCOME to MiA, HoJin Kwak!….

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