Maria Yoon



Cooper Union, NYC - Bachelor of Fine Arts

When performance artist Maria Yoon said “I do” at Times Square in New York City this May, it wasn’t the first time — it was her 50th.

Maria, a first generation Korean-American, felt pressure to get hitched at a young age from both her parents and the Korean-American community. In response, she became “Maria the Korean Bride,” and set out to hold a wedding in all 50 states opposite a revolving cast of “spouses.” The performance series was designed to bring attention to the social pressures and ostracism Maria has endured and explore how getting married is seen in other cultures.

Most of Maria’s grooms were found online, through friends or by chance encounters. Since each wedding was an art project, the groom’s only commitment was to show up and read the vows Maria wrote for each ceremony. But there were unusual spouses along the way, too: A 1,200-lb. Angus bull, a $2 million thoroughbred horse named “Unbridled Song” and a Miller Brewery Company T-shirt. She’s turned the ceremonies into a documentary piece to talk about binding love.

Maria is also a museum educator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and describes her artistic work as a creation of installation and performance that combine various elements like photography-collage, drawings and video.

Follow through, no matter how big or small.

How did you discover your current job?

I always knew I wanted to be an artist. It's part of my DNA. It helps that I work in a most beautiful place like the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Being a museum educator was an easy transition for me. I started attending high school programs at the Met and never left.

What is your typical day like? What types of things do you do in your job?

My days are unpredictable. When working at the museum, I provide private, guided tours to various audiences. These groups can vary in age; from 3-year-olds to adults. Often these tours are an hour to three hours long, depending on how many I have scheduled that day.

When not at the museum, I typically work from my studio, where the work never ends. Being an artist is 24/7 job. At home, my work can vary from spending hours reviewing video footage to editing in front of the computer all day. Furthermore, I'm my own producer, director, promoter and editor. That means there's also traveling involved, either as a guest speaker at various colleges or universities or for collaboration with other artists.

What is the most rewarding part of your job? The most challenging?

The most rewarding part of being an artist is seeing my vision come alive and sharing this vision with others. When my work makes people stop and think and creates dialogue with others by helping them think beyond their comfort zone, it's very rewarding. The more people I touch in this way, the more satisfaction I feel with my projects. The most challenging aspect is learning to accept the help of others when offered. Being a perfectionist is not the greatest trait to have when working with others.

What is the biggest personal sacrifice you have to make because of your job?

I don't consider my job to be a personal sacrifice. I chose to be an artist because it's my calling.

What is one lesson you've learned in your job that sticks with you?

Follow through, no matter how big or small. Make sure you complete your goal and vision.

What do you feel is the biggest challenge for women today, particularly females in your industry?

Female artists are generally not seriously looked upon. We have to work double- or triple-time to be recognized.

Who are your role models?

Christo, Andy Warhol and Angelina Jolie.

What are some of the rules you live by?

Follow your heart. And it helps to eat healthy.

What advice do you have for women who want to be in your industry?

Don't be afraid to follow your heart. Once committed, it takes a thick skin to survive in this industry.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

Continuing to travel to share my vision and voice. Maybe I'll have a show of my own on TV or online.

What are three things you love aside from your job?

My 19-month-old niece Zoe, lasagna and a martini.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I always love new friends on Facebook. Find me there!

-Interview by Keriann Strickland