If human personalities are a collection of characters we play in different situations, Korean-American artist Valery Jung Estabrook is done with 'acting the part.' In a video artwork called Thinly Worn, she escapes the roles institutions in her life expect from her by performing exaggerated versions of herself through therapeutic use of Korean tal masks.

— Beckett Mufson, from VICE, Unsettling Anime Masks Exorcise This Artist's Insecurities

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Thinly Worn is a collection of hand painted masks and an accompanying video, "Beautiful Face," that investigates the desire to change the physical self for the purpose of self-liberation.

  Arirang,  nylon stocking, molded plastic and acrylic paint, 2016

Arirang, nylon stocking, molded plastic and acrylic paint, 2016

In addition to contemporary media, I was also inspired by Korean tal (탈) masks: archetypal masks used in folk dances and plays. Although tal literally translates to “mask,” the word is derived from a Chinese character meaning “to rid oneself” or “to free oneself.” In Korean folk traditions, these masks allowed the wearer to be free from social norms. The masks reveal the heart’s true, hidden desire.

In this reimagining of the traditional Korean tal, I too seek a kind of freedom. The masks allow other persons and identities to take visible form. The materialization of these identities unpacks and dissects the personal experience of being a mixed-race Korean American woman. Some of these characters emerge from racist encounters. Others shed light on secret, sometimes shameful, desires and wishes-to-be. Externalizing these characters gives freedom to both become and confront them.

Protected and concealed by my mask, I am able to show the deepest and most vulnerable parts of my psyche. It is a wish to be seen and a call for others to share in my experience.

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  Miss America,  nylon stocking, molded plastic and acrylic paint, 2017

Miss America, nylon stocking, molded plastic and acrylic paint, 2017

  No Drama,  nylon stocking, molded plastic and acrylic paint, 2017

No Drama, nylon stocking, molded plastic and acrylic paint, 2017

  Emoji,  nylon stocking, molded plastic and acrylic paint, 2017

Emoji, nylon stocking, molded plastic and acrylic paint, 2017

  Miss Korea,  nylon stocking, molded plastic and acrylic paint, 2017

Miss Korea, nylon stocking, molded plastic and acrylic paint, 2017

  Crybaby,  nylon stocking, molded plastic and acrylic paint, 2017

Crybaby, nylon stocking, molded plastic and acrylic paint, 2017

  Anime,  nylon stocking, molded plastic and acrylic paint, 2016

Anime, nylon stocking, molded plastic and acrylic paint, 2016

  Eomoni (mother),  nylon stocking, molded plastic and acrylic paint, 2017

Eomoni (mother), nylon stocking, molded plastic and acrylic paint, 2017

  Idol,  nylon stocking, molded plastic and acrylic paint, 2017

Idol, nylon stocking, molded plastic and acrylic paint, 2017