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Sumi Foley:

“When one looks into nature, the mind has to be quiet.” 

10 am sunlight flows through the wide view window that accesses to the flourished 

nature. This is the studio where Sumi produces her art. She sets a table facing the window, and a number 

of easels are around it. While Sumi is working, she is able to look into nature easily.


The current work that Sumi is working on is a commission from her friend. She involves the fox character in this work, just like in many others. 



The Progress Gallery: This fox almost appears in every art piece you creates. What does it symbolized for?


Sumi: The fox represents a connection between my grandma and me. I learnt a lot of stitch and needlework from my grandma when I was little. She gave me a lot of Kimono fabrics that she was going to throw away. I inherited all this Kimono scrapes. That inspires me, and I started doing art. That is the starting point of becoming an artist. 


When I was little, my grandma gave me a lot of story telling. Some of them are her personal experiences, other of them are fox stories. The foxes in stories always wear Kimonos. The image of the character of fox comes into my mind. 


Because of my grandma, I started to do art. This (the fox) is the special connection between my grandma and me. I put her spirit in my works. 


Gallery: How long have you been involving the fox in your work?


Sumi: Almost 30 years. In the beginning, I always drew cartoon characters of fox; and while I was drawing them, I thought about my grandma. At that time I was a student and I wasn’t doing any serious art. Then I realized I always draw the fox character, and it is in me.

Gallery: How do you choose your materials? 


Sumi: I use fabric, paper, thread, and something from nature. Whatever the material around me and inspires me. I feel comfortable using fiber and paper. 


Gallery: How do you title your pieces?


Sumi: I title my pieces from music lyrics or things I read. I always title it after it’s complete. 

After Sumi made up her mind to be an artist, she has been very active in the artists’ community in Southern California. In 1996, Sumi met George Cuttress who encouraged Sumjo to try abstract art and working on canvas. George inspired and supported Sumi as she took one step forward in arts. 


Fr. Bill Moore is another artist who deeply influenced her. His dedication and faith in art impressed Sumi, and they had a sincere friendship for many years. 

Sumi had a broad exploration on subjects and material using. She integrates natural objects in her artwork, such as leaves, seed pot and fungi. Other than the nature subject that she has been well investigated, the “thread drawings” of hands and Japanese temples are quite unique and surprising as well.

Nourishment 1, 7x5 3.JPG

“Nourishment 1" 2011, 7"x5", kimono fabric, silk organza, hand stitched.   


I"My Man 67"  2013, 5"x7", kimono fabric, silk organza, hand stitched.

The layers in Sumi’s work create a depth for audiences to discover as they approaching the work from a distance; the details reveal from the layers as their sight move closer.


The working process with fabric is delicate and elegant. Sumi cuts fabric into small pieces and strips, and glues them together on the canvas. The elaborate work tricks people, that they would think it is a painting. Using fabric strips as tiny brush-strokes, Sumi’s work provides another possibility in material using of painting. 

Gallery: What inspires you most? 


Sumi: Music sound inspires me. Not only the music sound, but also nature and light have vibration as well. Even the silence has vibration as well. 


Gallery: Talk more about the silence. Is it more related to nature or more related to music in interpretation of your art. 


Sumi: More like nature. When you look into nature sometimes, the mind has to be quite. I feel that I start to disappearing, and my mind starts to disappearing. When I’m working on my art, the silence helps me a lot, both the silence in the environment and in my mind. 

One of her works inspired by classical music:


"Saraband" 2017, 15"x30", 2017, small strips of silk on canvas as pigment. 

Another inspiration that Sumi takes from nature is the Bristlecone Pine. It’s almost the oldest tree in the world. Despite it’s slow growth, the vitality of this species impressed Sumi. “It looks so alive,” she said, “the tree movement looks like dancing. 


Sumi started doing a series painting of Bristlecone Pine from two years ago. She transforms the movement of Britle Cone Pine into the lines and shapes in her art, and reproduces the vitality into partially abstract images. 


"Like in a Dream" 2020, 18"x24" small strips of silk on canvas as pigment.

"Sistine" 2019, 30"x15", small strips of silk on canvas as pigment. 

When you see something exciting, not only art, you have this blank moment in your mind. You don’t know what to say. 


In the blank moment, not even one word could come out from your month. 


That is the most pure moment of your mind— clear, pure, nothing.


I want my art to give people this experience. 

——Sumi Foley


Artist’s website:


Presented by the Progress Gallery on Nov. 2020

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