top of page

Mid-Century Mod

Note: This is a repost of an article I wrote on LinkedIn. My dad's post of the article has been viewed over 4,200 times in 1 day. I've only got a couple hundred on my page, but it's been shared a few times too, and has sparked interest from Ford. I meet with them on Friday and will hopefully have something fun to share. I wanted to post this 'cause it tells a bit about my story, (my story is really complicated and will take several posts to tell), but didn't write it here because it was kind of an open letter to Ford.

I don't want to be overly optimistic, but I believe 2021 is going to be a breakout year for me. I've been putting things out into the world that I want to create, like a photoshopped mural of MOCAD which has a little over 1,700 views so far. Dreaming, then helping people see my vision, is going to be a big part of my art practice. I've only done it twice so far, but I know it will create opportunities that have previously only been dreams.

Gandhi said, "be the change you wish to see in the world". I'm going to do that, and one of the ways I'm going to do that is by helping people see the way I want to change the world, so that I might become more effective at creating it.

K. Here's the article:

I read an awesome article a few days ago by Phoebe Wall Howard which was published in the Detroit Free Press about the Mustang Mach-E and how the interior was inspired by Mid-Century Modern design. She waxed poetic about Detroit's rich design heritage, and how it was the epicenter of MCM. Eames, Saarinen, Bertoia, & Van der Rohe were all part of Detroit's great design legacy.

The Mach-E is a super important vehicle for Ford, and even more special to me now after reading Howard's article. I've loved cars my whole life and grew up surrounded by MCM design. I fell in love with MCM, and modern architecture during high school when I started to ask my parents about some of the furniture in our home.

My dad worked for Knoll and Herman Miller when I was really young, and as a result, I was blessed with early exposure to some of the world's most iconic furniture design. Herman Miller even made a custom Eames rocking chair for me.

It was made in the University of Michigan's colors, because I was born at their hospital, and it's where my parents met.

When my sister and I were really little we used to make art and do craft projects on a Richard Meier table. The top of that poor thing still has the markings of our childhood, but that's why that table is so special to my mother to this day. To love, live with, and heavily use furniture that lives in mint condition at the MOMA and Guggenheim is a privilege I'm deeply grateful for.

While my dad worked for Knoll in NYC, I was exposed to graffiti and the work of Keith Haring. This was in the late 80's early 90's, and Haring's work had a huge impact on me which you can obviously see in my artwork today. Haring believed art should be accessible, and Van der Rohe less is more. My work uniquely embodies both of these philosophies and is an extension of the Bauhaus movement.

Both of my parents immigrated to America in '73 from South Korea. My dad with his older brother to join his eldest brother who arrived in Michigan 2 years prior, and my mother with her whole family.

My grandpa, grandma, mom and her two younger brothers lived in the Stimpson Apartments in Detroit's Cass Corridor, and none of them spoke english. Grandpa's first business was running a gas station, the Sunoco at 96 and Schaefer, which is still there today (I have a deep love of Vernors and grape Faygo thanks to grandpa).

Over time, grandpa taught himself how to fix cars, and became a master mechanic. My grandparents were well educated in Korea, but couldn't get the kind of jobs they had in Korea because they couldn't speak english, so they had to do what they could to earn a living. Years later, grandpa opened an auto body shop in Ann Arbor, where I would hang out every summer.

I grew up loving cars from a young age, and could identify pretty much every car on the road by their headlights at night. Still to this day, automotive paint and gasoline are two of my favorite smells.

Fast forward to 2017 where I opened NYC's first sustainable omakase sushi restaurant to rave reviews by the Village Voice, who dubbed it one of their best new restaurants in NYC. In 2018, I opened Detroit's first sustainable sushi restaurant. It closed in 2019, a week after my grandfather passed away.

This brief history helps paint a picture of me as an artist, designer, and sustainable sushi chef. I'm an artist who has a deep love of Detroit and works to bring dreams to life. No matter how many times I get knocked down, just like the city, I get back up.

My aesthetic is a graffiti and MCM design hybrid while my life is inspired by Korean and Japanese culture, the bauhaus movement, powered by that Detroit hustle. My life and art have been surprisingly consistent over the past 10 years because it's who I am.

It may not seem apparent for those who have known me for a long time, because I've bounced between art, sushi, design, and community building throughout the years. But they're not separate things to me. They are all what make up who I am, and without one I seem to be incomplete.

My art contemplates creation and consumption, everything and nothing, and the relationship people have with the planet. I keep these things in mind daily, and work to figure out how to live life in a way that truly adds value to this world.

Ford's efforts to push sustainability forward through great design is what has compelled me to finally share this dream of collaborating with them.

More specifically, I want to paint a Mach-E.

Of course I want to own one someday, but it has always been a dream of mine to paint a car, and there isn't a car in the world that would be more meaningful for my practice.

To learn more about my work, follow me on instagram @mikehan_detroit.

bottom of page