Cameron Kim, a Bay Space artist who was born in Gyeonggi-do, South Korea, and lived for the final 22 years within the Bay Space died on February 8, 2021, on the age of 43.
The trigger was liver and coronary heart failure. He handed away on the California Pacific Medical Heart Van Ness campus after being taken in an ambulance from the Hospitality Home’s Neighborhood Arts Program the place he complained of getting bother respiration, mentioned the supervisor of this system, Janet Williams.
After years of being on the road, Kim started collaborating within the arts program on Market Avenue someday in 2017. “I used to be so filthy, I used to be soiled, I smelled dangerous, however they gave me a chair, they sat me down, they usually gave me all these artwork provides to begin portray with,” Kim advised impartial journalist Wendy B in a 2018 audio interview posted on Soundcloud.
For the subsequent 5 years, he would spend daily on the studio portray and inspiring different artists. Even when the studio was closed, he would sit exterior and work on his artwork. I met him in November of last year reporting on the art program’s transfer to an out of doors area through the pandemic. On the time, whereas engaged on his artwork, he advised me he was 33. However no matter age, he had clearly discovered his calling – one which took him years to reach at.
Kim’s early childhood in South Korea
Kim’s life started in Gyeonggi-do, a province close to Seoul, South Korea the place he lived together with his mom, father, and youthful sister, now Sweet Muehlenkamp.
Then, when he was seven and his sister three, his mom dropped them off at an orphanage as a result of she couldn’t take care of them after their father had handed. It was a narrative that Kim advised his sister, however that she herself had little reminiscence of, Muehlenkamp mentioned.
However for Kim, she mentioned, the reminiscence was sturdy and he recalled listening to their mom say she “could be coming again within the morning to get us.” Kim advised his sister that he waited up all night time for his mom to by no means return.
In 1978, after round two years within the orphanage, Kim and Muehlenkamp have been adopted by an American household and moved to the US. Kim was 9 and his sister was 5.
“Generally I really feel deserted, the those who adopted me, we didn’t get alongside properly, that’s why I ended up on the streets,” Kim said in November when I interviewed him and different members on the out of doors artwork class at Victoria Manalo Draves Park.
Kim’s sister Muehlenkamp hasn’t spoken to her adopted mother and father in over 20 years.
Artwork, for her brother, nevertheless, turned a lifeline. “He was all the time good at artwork,” mentioned Muehlenkamp, who described a caring older brother who taught her learn how to swim and journey a motorbike.
Excessive College within the Unites States
The siblings attended Excessive College in Lemoore, California, a metropolis of 26,000, 32 miles south of Fresno.
A highschool good friend of Kim’s, Erick Ursua, mentioned Kim was very likable and had an excellent group of mates. However he observed that for Kim, ingesting turned a solution to escape no matter was happening at house.
After highschool, Kim packed his issues and left house with out saying goodbye. He had a quick stint within the Navy earlier than transferring to the Bay Space, his sister mentioned.
Within the Bay Space, he labored varied jobs, together with as a financial institution teller and automotive salesman, based on his good friend Ursua.
Dwelling on the streets
Ultimately, Kim hit all-time low and he ended up residing on the streets.
“I used to be doing quite a lot of medication, I used to be ingesting rather a lot, I simply just about gave up on life,” Kim mentioned in 2018.
Then someday drawing on cardboard in an alleyway, a Tenderloin bar proprietor got here up and requested him if he’d ever painted earlier than. Cameron mentioned no.
“He got here again a pair nights later with all these artwork provides…he even had an artwork bag that he purchased for me, he mentioned right here, why don’t you do this?”
Discovering consolation in artwork
Quickly after in 2017, he found the artwork program. “After about two months of coming right here and portray, round that point I simply realized I didn’t need to drink anymore, I didn’t need to do medication anymore, and I wished to get assist. It was round that point I checked myself into an emergency room to get clear,” Kim mentioned within the 2018 interview.
And through the years he had some success. He donated a lot of his work to the Hospitality Home’s artwork public sale – one is going on this week. One 12 months, his portray and one bought for “$1,600” he defined proudly to me throughout our dialog.
In the course of the pandemic, Kim mentioned he seemed ahead to Wednesdays when he joined others at Victoria Manalo Draves park to create artwork outside. “It’s a secure place, a neighborhood of artists – it feels extra like household to me. I really feel I can create, do artwork and be snug round individuals I do know,” Kim advised me whereas engaged on his collage within the park in November.
“He was variety and real, and by no means sought out anybody’s consideration – he was good at judging individuals’s character, and understanding an individual’s coronary heart,” mentioned his good friend Ursua over the cellphone following Kim’s demise.
However “sadly, it seems to be like…he simply couldn’t escape…the demons that have been plaguing him,” mentioned Ursua.
He’s survived by his sister Sweet Muehlenkamp who lives in Fort Thomas, Kentucky together with her seven-year-old daughter and works as a technical program supervisor.
Kim had a tattoo with the numbers 333, which he defined signifies the angel quantity and means “you might be on the proper path, and somebody is taking care of you.”
The Hospitality House Community Arts Program plans to arrange a solo exhibition with a few of Kim's paintings this spring. When the present is introduced, we'll embrace it in our weekly Neighborhood Notes.