SPEAK Season 2 Episode 4: Life In the Ocean

Henry Hong: The Ocean, Mixed Media Collage

Rachel: I’m Rachel Gray

Debbie: and I’m Debbie Ratcliffe, AKA the Dragon Lady.

Rachel: And welcome to SPEAK, a podcast from BEING Studio.

SPEAK is artists with developmental disabilities telling their own stories.

And today on SPEAK, we’re going to be hearing from Henry Hong.

Debbie: I like his drawing. It’s detailed. He does sea creatures and dinosaurs and birds.

Rachel: Henry’s drawings have a lot of energy and pressure.

Debbie: Yeah, he wants to make sure the ink is embedded in the paper or what he’s working with.

Rachel: Today on the show, Henry is sharing a piece about the ocean, where he draws a lot of creative inspiration from, but before we enter the sea, we wanted to share part of an interview with Henry from back in 2018.

This interview is part of a series of interviews that were done for a video about BEING Studio’s exhibitions. In a lot of ways, these interviews were a precursor to SPEAK: an opportunity to hear artists from BEING talk about their creative practice. You’ll recognize this voice.

[Voice clip starts]

Debbie: Hi, my name is Debbie Ratcliffe, AKA Dragon Lady, AKA Mother of All Dragons. I love making art. I love, I love showing it to the world. It’s like, we’re not going to be left out. It’s like we’re here to stay, like it or not.

[Voice clip ends]

Debbie: Okay. That’s really cool. I didn’t think I had the nerve to say that, but I guess I do.

Rachel: For me Henry’s interview was like opening a window, something that broadened and illuminated my understanding of art.

Here’s Henry in 2018:

Henry: Art is important to me because it has a lot of ideas and plans for inspiration and for using your own ideas, while borrowing from others. It gives me some depth and exhilaration for drawing such pictures that I see and normally see, not every day, see every day, every day.

Rachel: And what do you love most about art?

Henry: Art gives me inspiration, life, uh, ideas and escapism, and get away from the everyday. So every day won’t be the same. It will be different than what is alive.

I’d like to say that above all I like art because it is interesting, pleasing, and gives me thoughts and ideas, inspiration to explore my inner self, sanctum self, and how I operate and live, being me through all sorts of medium and new things that I see and don’t see every day. Don’t see…

Rachel: I love the idea Henry presents of art as a force of animation or an expression of curiosity. It’s that lens that Henry applies to this new piece about our struggling oceans. What is your relationship like with the ocean, Debbie?

Debbie: In my past life by sake, I was part, animal or a sea creature. I’m not sure, but when I do pass, I told my sister: “Toss me into the sea! I’ll come back as a dolphin or something.”

Rachel: Do you think you would miss the land?

Debbie: I don’t know. Maybe. I don’t know.

Rachel: Should we dive in?

Henry: My name is Henry Hong. I’m trying to express my, uh, my my thoughts about the sea and how it, how it reveals itself to the living, like me. I am an artist who draws animals, birds, insects, and really likes creatures who live in the ocean. Ocean is a place not only where fish sharks and many other species live. The ocean is life. while I was growing up, I watched documentaries on TV. I have always been inspired by Jacques Cousteau. I have admired his love of the ocean as a researcher, a diver, and explorer, a teacher. And most importantly, he is a protector of the ocean.

Without water. We would die. The ocean is home to thousands of species that live quite happily and multiply. We also depend on the ocean for food. Overfishing to place the fish population. If this is allowed to continue, we would run out of some types of seafood.

Can you imagine how easily a species can become extinct? It has happened, but it doesn’t have to.

Let’s talk about food. Some of my favorite meals come from the sea. If you like all kinds of fish, you are getting great nutrition from these tasty creatures.

I really like salmon, whether it is poached, fried, smoked, or roasted on a barbecue, the flavor is sweet and salty and the texture is smooth. Can you name your favorite seafood? Are you a fan of squid? Octopus, cuttlefish, lobster, crayfish or shrimp? The stores today sell so many varieties. The problem is just choosing one.

I would like to talk about birds of the sea. The sea is often a huge source of food. Various birds have adapted to life at sea. Here are only two examples. The Adelie penguin.

There are two species regularly found in Antarctica. They make long migrations through frigid waters for feeding and braiding. The horned Puffin: it has a triangular bill and his stubby and short neck. It usually breeds from Maine to Southern Greenland.

I like to talk about unusual shapes and sizes of creatures in the ocean. Starfish are spiny creatures, usually with five arms and they have rows of two feet. Their colors are very vibrant and they live on the seafloor. One of the most magnificent species is the Crown of Thorns starfish. It has 10 to 20 arms and sharp, mildly venomous spines that can cause injury to humans. “Warning, be careful where you tread”.

Seahorses are creatures that resemble horses. Their body is encased in a hard shell of bony plates. The Weedy Sea Dragon is bizarrely shaped and highest among seaweeds on rocky reefs and his camouflage bites manually like skin flaps.

I like to talk about the largest sea creatures. The largest predator in the ocean is the shark. There are more than 225 species. Bull shark is one of the ocean’s most dangerous sharks. Does anyone think of the movie Jaws and the impression it left on them? It is probably the most watched thriller movie made in 1975, directed by Steven Spielberg.

The movie was shot on location on Martha’s vineyard in Massachusetts, John’s was the first big movie to be shot on the ocean. The star of the show was the great white shark whose reputation is feared by humans. You cannot argue with a creature so terrifying, so don’t even try.

My love of the ocean is admiring the movement and shapes of all its creatures. There are probably thousands of undiscovered species keeping the ocean safe and healthy is our job. Pollution needs to be reduced and all of us can help so that we can continue learning about marine life and enjoying the beauty of our oceans.

I’m Henry Hong. I hope you will love the ocean as much as I do.

Rachel: I wanted to learn more about Henry’s relationship with the ocean, where so much of the inspiration for his work comes from.

Henry, do you feel a connection with sea creatures?

Henry: Uh, yes, they are different from all the rest of the creatures that live on, I live in this world on earth that that can live on the seat or living in the sea, drafted to living in the sea.

Rachel: What draws you to the ocean?

Henry: Because it’s different. It’s the same, but different is special. And then it makes it different from the rest of the world on earth.

Rachel: Do you think that fish dream?

Henry: I don’t know if fish can dream fish, fish, dream. Uh, it’s quite possible logically that they can. I hope so.

Rachel: Can you describe the experience of swimming?

Henry: It’s exhilarating. It’s fun. It’s exciting.

It’s like you’re living in water, water, waves, current, waves, water. It’s a totally different experience. It’s an experience that’s exhilarating, exciting, different.

Rachel: I’m curious if empathy is part of your creative process.

Henry: Well, it’s nothing more than just feeling a little bit of sympathy or sorrow for some things that live and don’t live in this world.

I feel bad for species that go extinct. Some that make it, others cannot exist and survive and we should protect them, because we need the ocean.

Rachel: SPEAK is hosted by:

Debbie: Debbie “The Dragon” Ratcliffe,

Rachel: produced and co-hosted by Rachel Gray.

Debbie: theme music by Jesse Stewart.

Rachel: Episode music by Jack Hui Litster.

Debbie: Our consulting editor is Allie Graham.

Rachel: Our mix editor is Erin Flynn.