Above image by Alexandre Gaspar Maia, Summer 2019, Rochester, MN
Sophia Chai is a Rochester-based artist who was born in South Korea and immigrated to New York City at the age of fourteen. Through a series of translations between different mediums, Chai makes site-specific installations of her photographs. Lifting the lines between drawing, painting, architecture, and photography Chai is compelled to probe beneath the layers that have conditioned our expectations of what a picture is. In doing so, questioning all normalized perception through her lens. Chai’s interest lies in the rift between how we see through the camera lens and how we experience space with our bodies. Chai uses form and color that are elemental and ubiquitous, hence, immediately known, to highlight the tenuous relationship between seeing and knowing. The impossibility of fixing a permanent perspective, despite the camera suggesting otherwise, is what drew her to photography. In that space created by dissonance where different perspectives project discordant narratives, Chai sees a conduit for empathy.
Chai received her BA in chemistry from the University of Chicago and her MFA in photography from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Before relocating to Rochester, MN in 2017 from Brooklyn, New York, Chai showed her work in group exhibitions at venues in New York City, including Trestle Projects, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, Knockdown Center, A.I.R. Gallery, and TSA Gallery, among others. In addition to a solo exhibition at 106 Green (Brooklyn) in 2016, Chai mounted two solo exhibitions in 2020: Sight Lines at the Rochester Art Center (Minnesota) and Interpolation at Hair + Nails Gallery in Minneapolis. Chai is grateful for the financial support she has received from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council (2019), the Minnesota State Arts Board (2020 and 2022), and the Jerome Foundation (2019-2020). Chai is presently working on her first permanent public outdoor art project for Discovery Walk, a new four-block linear parkway in downtown Rochester, commissioned by the city of Rochester and Destination Medical Center. Chai is represented by Hair + Nails Gallery in Minneapolis.