Performance artist Maria Yoon, like many single women of a certain age, felt a growing pressure to wed. But rather than settling for the traditional trajectory of courtship and marriage, Yoon took matrimony to the next level with a wedding-cum-performance art piece that made a pitstop in every state across the country. Having performed the role of bride opposite a revolving cast of “spouses” for more than eight years, Yoon recently concluded her project when she said “I do” for the 50th – and last – time in New York City’s Times Square last month.
I recently talked to Yoon about “Maria the Korean Bride,” and how the experience changed her views about marriage and its evolving role in contemporary American culture.
Ko: What sparked the initial idea for “Maria the Korean Bride”?
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Ko: You’ve recently completed your 50th wedding ceremony in New York City’s Times Square. What’s behind the decision to stop at 50?
Yoon: America is made up of 50 states. I’m glad that there aren’t 51 states.
Ko: What was your favorite wedding so far?
Yoon: It was in Wyoming, getting married on a horse. It pushed me out of my city-girl comfort level. Additionally, over 300 people attended my wedding reception. Wyoming is the least populated state in America. I felt truly loved by the community.
Ko: Your least favorite, or the most difficult?
Yoon: It was in Wisconsin, when a weekend supervisor from the Miller Brewery factory asked me to leave the premises. Afterward, she suggested that I go back to my country. I felt offended, especially since I am a U.S. citizen and my home is New York City.
Ko: What are some of the more unusual “spouses” you’ve had?
Yoon: A 1,200-lb. Angus, a $2 million thoroughbred horse named “Unbridled Song,” and a Miller Brewery Company T-shirt.
Ko: What has “Maria the Korean Bride” taught you?
Yoon: There are so many different states and subcultures within America, which have different views on marriage and marriage customs. It made me realize just how vast and diverse this country is.
Ko: What surprised you the most during the project?
Yoon: People’s kindness and willingness to help. Without their participation, my project would not have been possible.
Ko: While 2010 marked the first time that married couples made up less than half of all American households, studies still claim that married people – especially married men – live longer, healthier lives than the unmarried. What do you feel these studies and statistics say about marriage in the U.S. today?
Yoon: Everyone wants to be loved and grow old together with someone. A good marriage creates stability in someone’s life. I think this stability enhances personal finance, health and the quality of one’s life.