Original reporting done in 2009 by Sydney Parker.
Art is gestating in Long Island City’s Space Womb. The new gallery conceived by artist Jongwang Lee features installation art, interpretive dance and music inspired by the spirituality of the female uterus. Mr. Lee envisions his exhibition as a home for embryonic life, “where one can leave material reality behind and return to the Utopian world of the mother’s womb.” He hopes to promote his vision while fostering the growth of developing artists in the community.
“It’s a little weird, but it’s nice to look at,” said Patricia Toranovich, manager of Court Square Diner located across the street.
Diners enjoy cheese Danish and a full view of the gallery’s galactic “Space Womb” sign imposed on a jet-pack black exterior and swathed in tongue-pink swirls extending all the way onto the sidewalk.
“The name is so strange, nobody knows what it is,” said Tina O’Brien, a bartender at The Shannon Pot, an Irish pub a few doors down from the gallery, “everyone is afraid to go in.”
Mr. Lee credits much of the inspiration for his art to his grandmother who was a famous Shaman in Korea.“During my childhood I was deeply impacted by her performance and felt a strong contact with the spiritual world,” says Lee swooping back a mass of long, dark hair.
Upon completion of his studies at prestigious art Universities in Seoul, Korea and Tokyo, Japan, Mr. Lee moved to New York, New York. He missed the familiarity of his birth country, but wanted to be reborn in the culturally and politically free American climate. His womb-themed art has been featured in group and solo shows throughout museums in California, Washington D.C. and New York. In June 2009 he opened his own gallery at 22-48 Jackson Avenue, LIC.
Space Womb’s address has a reputation in the working-class neighborhood as a haunt for eccentric proprietors. The storefront church, Iglesia De Dios that previously occupied the space held raucous Wednesday night prayer meetings much to the displeasure of neighboring businesses.
“They were singing and screaming late at night. I couldn’t stand the noise,” says Kenny Kang a sign constructor at nearby Eden Signs & More. The owner of the church was later committed to an insane asylum and the church sold to current landlord, Gregory Wolkoff.
The businesses bounding 22-48 Jackson Avenue are relieved by the quietness of their new neighbor. Mr. Lee’s unusual gallery provokes more than a few eyebrow raises, but doesn’t disturb the ebb and flow of the hard working Long Island City citizens arriving off the 7 train zooming overhead.
“I hope that my work encourages people to look within themselves and realize the unbelievable power of life and the dormant potential within each of us,” says Lee.
Mr. Lee is pleased with his gallery’s relatively soothing presence and hopes to continue infiltrating the neighborhood with his artistic and spiritual revelations.
“I like the name Space Womb, it’s funny,” says Michael Stein, a dreadlocked, 6’ 5” elevator mechanic taking a cigarette break in front of Colonial Elevator Corporation. “What the hell do they do in there?”