Visual Artist and Cellist Laerdon Kim ’24 Explores Freedom Through Artistic Versatility in His Creation and Presentation

With splashes of black, pink, and blue contrasted against a beige backdrop, a small brown boat floats on a thin layer of gouache, surrounded by looming shadows. This “intervened” piece building off an existing artwork, titled “The Road Ends Here,” demonstrates one facet of Laerdon Kim ’24’s versatile art style.

Kim took up both painting and playing the cello in the early years of his childhood. Since then, Kim has worked towards not only expanding his repertoire to include different styles and mediums, but also exploring the creative connections between his pursuits and looking to grasp the overall value of his artistic contributions.

“[Visual] art is about composition. It’s about putting things together; taking things and creating something with them… Music is another half of the process: it’s the presentation [and] performance. You’re taking something beautiful that somebody else has done and you’re having to channel that in a way to present it to an audience… both of those skills are really valuable,” said Kim.

Though possessing a range of skills in watercolor, painting, charcoal, and many other mediums, what stands out about Kim’s art is not only his versatility, but also his distinct style and affinity for portraiture. A fellow artist and friend, Nor Dehoog ’24, describes a Saturday evening where Kim decided to draw portraits of his friends and highlights the natural simplicity that Kim conveyed in his art. 

“He asked if he could use me as a model, and he was able to capture a likeness very quickly, which I think for a lot of people our age is hard to do because that’s what a lot of artists are trying to work towards: it’s being able to mimic life, which is something I’ve seen throughout his portfolio and other pieces of his work,” said Dehoog.

Within his music, Kim pursues a similar sense of creative freedom that can be found in his visual works. He emphasizes that rather than solely focusing on the technical aspect of playing the cello, he strives for a balance between perfecting his skills and finding personal gratification during practices and performances. 

“I play the cello, [and] it takes balance… to be able to make a sound that is pleasing for other people to hear. Stripping away layers of dilution, trying to learn techniques, or understanding every single aspect of how you make something good takes a step away from what makes something beautiful. People gravitate to art and music because it seems like an escape from the complexity that we sort of encounter very often in life. When you’re in art and music, you’re in a state where you’re mainly focused on performing and creating. It’s only about you,” said Kim. 

Through his works, Kim aims to convey an accessible message and highlight what he believes is important about art. According to Kim, the purpose behind each artwork or musical piece lies in not only what it means to convey, but also its significance as a creation of humanity. 

“I think art and music are some of the most human things that we can do. We didn’t invent physics or chemistry or biology; those were already there. We’re observing them. We’re learning about them. Space already existed before we got here. But we created art and we created music. These are human inventions,” said Kim.