Hein Koh’s Playful Take on Chopping Broccoli

The Broccoli Woman: An Artistic Journey of Delight and Depth

So often, art becomes a reflection of the artist’s experiences and emotions. The same can be said for Hein Koh and her captivating creation – the Broccoli Woman. In the midst of the pandemic, Koh found solace and inspiration in painting the lived experience of this anthropomorphic vegetable femme fatale. Through her artwork, Koh explores the inner landscape of the Broccoli Woman, her identity, and the emotions she embodies. Let us delve into this delightful yet poignant journey that Koh has embarked upon.

The Provocative Protagonist: Who is the Broccoli Woman?

The Broccoli Woman, with her black leather boots, red lipstick, and nails, is not your average vegetable. She smokes incessantly, exuding an air of coolness and rebellion. Originally born as a sculpture in 2019, Koh’s artistic gaze turned towards painting during the pandemic. She delved deeper into the character of the Broccoli Woman, weaving compelling stories around her. While occasionally featuring a Carrot Woman, Koh has primarily focused on the Broccoli Woman, drawn to her unique form and her representation as a symbol of health.

But there is more to the Broccoli Woman’s story. As an Asian-American female artist, Koh effortlessly infuses her own experiences of being an “other” into the character. The Broccoli Woman represents the beauty and strength in embracing one’s differences and navigating the world as a unique individual. Koh’s intention goes beyond appealing to a niche audience; she aims for collective relatability and universality.

A Glimpse into the Inner Landscape

The Broccoli Woman possesses a deeply human quality, one that encompasses a range of emotions. She is pensive, anxious, and even depressed, but also bold and badass. Koh has artfully crafted a character that resonates with the complexities of the human psyche. Through her expressive actions, the Broccoli Woman communicates without words, evoking a sense of captivating mystery.

Engaging with the senses, Koh imagines the Broccoli Woman to wear fragrant perfume, attempting to mask the inherent broccoli smell. Although devoid of audible dialogue, the Broccoli Woman finds solace and expression through her choice in music. Imagine her jamming to ’90s and early 2000s hip hop, along with punk rock and post-punk, finding resonance in the beats of Missy Elliot and Fugazi.

The Power of Metaphor: “Stairway to Heaven”

One of Koh’s standout works, “Stairway to Heaven,” encapsulates her signature balance of humor and darkness. It serves as a metaphor for the never-ending pursuit of success or goodness. The viewer is left to decide whether the Broccoli Woman falls just short of her aspirations or stands on the cusp of achieving them. Koh deliberately chooses an obvious and cliché title to provoke a reaction – both annoyance and empowerment. By intertwining shared cultural references, she makes a statement that resonates deeply.

Exploring New Narratives: Introducing “The Shadow”

Koh’s artistic exploration evolves with the introduction of a new character: “The Shadow.” This enigmatic addition allows the Broccoli Woman to connect with another presence, one that can also be interpreted as her own shadow. Drawing inspiration from Jungian psychology, Koh delves into the concept of embracing our darker selves, acknowledging and accepting the aspects we find challenging. Her work delves deeper into the emotional realm, as she seeks to unearth profound layers of human experience.

Unveiling Layers of Emotion

Koh fearlessly delves into negative emotions in her artwork, particularly in response to the pandemic-induced anxieties, depression, and loneliness. Now, with the Broccoli Woman interacting with “The Shadow,” Koh explores the intricacies and complexities of relationships through the lens of negative emotions. While generally a happy person, Koh uses her art as a means to confront and navigate through difficult emotions, crafting a space for both self-reflection and catharsis.

A Yearning for Lightness

Like many of us, Koh yearns for the carefree and joyous moments that pre-pandemic life offered. She admits to feeling lighter, more fun, and happier in those times. Although she occasionally taps into that space when socializing, the weight of the world has cast a persistent shadow of anxiety. Yet, amidst the longing for a return to a lighter existence, Koh wonders if this heaviness is merely a symptom of middle age, contemplating what the future holds.

Symbols and Significance: The Cigarette

In Koh’s work, the act of smoking represents a moment of reflection and self-contemplation. While she herself does not indulge in smoking, the Broccoli Woman embraces it as a way to pause, meditate, and give herself the space she needs. Smoking signifies her ability to remain calm and composed even in moments of duress, ultimately maintaining control despite the challenges she faces.

A Journey of Transformation

Koh’s artistry has undergone remarkable changes in the past five years. Previously, she crafted glittering soft sculptures, creating larger-than-life pieces that exuded charm and whimsy. However, as the pandemic swept the world, Koh found herself compelled to shift her artistic direction. Feeling drained by the labor-intensive nature of sculpture and unsuited to making joyful art during a harrowing time, she turned back to painting and drawing. Through these mediums, she found a conduit for expressing the darker emotions that consumed her. While easing her way back into sculpture, Koh collaborates with fabricators to bring her ideas to life in the form of bronzes, allowing her to explore and realize a multitude of creative concepts.

Exhibitions and Beyond

Koh’s artistic journey has secured her a place in prestigious museum exhibitions. Earlier this year, she showcased her work in a solo exhibition at the Savannah College of Art and Design Museum. Through four captivating installations displayed in giant windows, known as jewel boxes, Koh breathed new life into her previous creations. By combining these elements with freshly painted backdrops turned into vinyl wallpaper, she infused her work with a sense of continuity and evolution. Additionally, she participated in a group exhibition at the National Academy of Arts Museum in Vienna, further expanding her artistic reach.

Unleashing Creativity: Sketches and Finding Direction

Koh’s creative process involves constant ideation, which she captures in her trusty sketchbook. From these initial sketches, she progresses to larger drawings in pastel and charcoal, ultimately selecting the most compelling ideas to transform into paintings. While the Broccoli Woman does not possess direct control over Koh’s hand, there is an undeniable force that guides her when she feels a strong connection to her work. Acting as a conduit, the Broccoli Woman channels a powerful energy, enabling Koh to express the profound emotions that fuel her art.


The artistic journey of Hein Koh and her Broccoli Woman is one of introspection, emotion, and the relentless pursuit of self-expression. In the midst of a pandemic, Koh found solace and inspiration in painting, bringing forth a captivating character that embodies the complexities of the human experience. Through powerful metaphors and a delicate balance of humor and darkness, Koh’s work resonates with audiences on a profound level. From museum exhibitions to forthcoming solo shows, her artistry continues to evolve, unfurling new depths and narratives. The Broccoli Woman serves as a symbol of resilience, inviting us to explore our own shadows and find lightness amidst the struggles of life.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What inspired Hein Koh to create the Broccoli Woman?

Koh found inspiration in the pandemic-induced limitations and turned to painting as a means of artistic expression. The Broccoli Woman emerged from Koh’s desire to delve deeper into the character she had initially sculpted in 2019.

2. How has the Broccoli Woman evolved over time?

Koh’s artistry has undergone significant transformations. Previously, she focused on creating glittering soft sculptures but shifted her direction to painting and drawing during the pandemic. This shift allowed her to explore darker emotions and unearth new layers of the Broccoli Woman’s personality.

3. Is the Broccoli Woman relatable to a wider audience?

Despite her uniqueness, Koh aims to make the Broccoli Woman relatable on a universal level. By infusing her own experiences as