Artwork Details

Hwa-Jeen Na

b. 1994

8 Years, Bob Coombs in the Apartment Lounge
Giclee Print on Museo Silver Rag Fine Art Photographic Paper
30 x 40 inches
Not on view
Accession Number
Museum Purchase
Image Copyright
© Hwa-Jeen Na

About the Artwork

Hwa – Jeen Na is a Grand Rapids-based artist whose work covers a broad spectrum of photographic styles from staged, directorial studio work to intimate, snap-shot style photographs while keeping a dedicated focus on portraiture. This image comes from the series, As Much Heaven as Earth, which emerged from the tragic death by suicide of a childhood friend. While grappling with this particular loss, as well as the loss of so many LGBTQ+ young people to suicide, Na began reaching out to the queer community at Kendall College of Art and Design, attending meetings at the Grand Rapids Pride Center, and traveling the country to meet and interview queer artists in the hopes of finding answers. Some of the people he spoke with became subjects for this series, along with their responses to Na’s overarching prompt, why do you choose to stay?”

Each photograph is accompanied by these text responses – whether an interview, poem, or letter from the subject – recording differing experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals in West Michigan. 

8 Years, Robert Andy Coombs 

What do you miss the most? 

Probably hugging. 

Really? Were you a good hugger? 

Oh bitch…I would get all up in that hugging business. 

Why did you like hugging? 

I liked the feeling of hugging and being able to get closer to someone. It was just less awkward…Now there’s too much stuff in the way all the time LOL. 

I like hugging you! It’s my favorite thing when you lean your head in and let me give you a little kiss on the head. Your hugs are still very warm.

Haha, oh I know. I guess I also miss the feeling of dominance. I was physically tall and strong so I could really squeeze the person to my liking. 

That’s terrifying.


Hey, can I ask you something? 

Yeah, go for it. 

Do you ever miss being able to walk? 

At times… I miss being tall, LOL. And I miss giving really good hugs. 

Do you ever think about the sensation of walking or running? 

Sometimes I do in my dreams, which is cool. But yeah, I do think about the sensation of walking or running. For me it was just another way to express myself — the way I walked with sass and the strides I would take. I loved the way walking engaged my leg muscles because they were so beautiful and so strong. I specifically loved walking with my loud, bossy shoes on, like casual dress shoes… the lace-up loafers type deal with a hard sole. The sound they made as they hit the ground is what I liked most. I also miss the playfulness of running. 

What do you mean? 

Whenever I would do things or play with my friends we always ended up running towards or away from one another for the thrill of the chase and I could bob and weave like no one else. Like in capture the flag or tag. I was the bomb-diggity. 

Oh I remember those games! They were so much fun as a kid. 

They were even better as an adult. I was always really competitive and as an adult you are so much more agile, stronger, and faster, which made it so much more intense. 

When was the last time you played capture-the-flag or tag? 

I think the last time was the summer before my accident eight years ago now.