By Sara Torgerson
If you have been in the Ath lately, you may have stopped by the new show at the Silber Gallery. The exhibition, Perspectives: a Look through Cultural Lenses, is a video installation project using mixed media to explore the effect of Western and Eastern art history and culture on the artist Joyce Yu-Jean Lee.
The subsequent week, Lee and I talked about her work in her studio in Downtown’s Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower. Lee attended the University of Pennsylvania where she studied communications. Before she became an artist, her dream was to work in fashion marketing, but after an internship with Ralph Lauren in New York City and another internship working with artist, Makoto Fujimura, she started to look more into the arts. It was not until 2001 that Lee fully committed to her work as an artist. The question that drummed in my mind was, “Why? What changed, making Lee stray from a ‘safer’ career path in communications to the ‘high-risk’ profession of the artist?”
“It was really 9/11 that made me decide to become an artist,” she said. “It was a really life changing point for me during which I realized, ‘Oh so one day you’re here. The next day some crazy world tragedy happens and then you’re gone.’” She continued, “If I could die tomorrow, without any warning, I want to do something that I fully love.”
Upon returning to college, Lee picked up a fine art minor. She graduated, worked in marketing in New York City for six years and built her portfolio for graduate school. She was accepted into MICA and since then she has been creating art and taking advantage of opportunities through the college. She has participated in three residencies, one travel grant to Europe, and a trip to China to work at a residency. Now, she is back in Baltimore, continuing to make her mixed media art that explores cultural identity and how it changes.
Lee referenced her travels to China and the way Chinese culture has changed since her parents left. Her work looks at these cultural changes, examines the differences between Chinese and American culture and their growing influences on each other. She sees how stories from the past translate today.
Many of the pieces that can be viewed at Lee’s show, Perspectives, blends together art history and contemporary scenes. When I asked Lee why she takes aspects from art history and translates it into her own work, she said, “What I like doing is taking very familiar stories and re-contextualizing them and putting a twist on them so people will remember and hopefully think about those stories again.” She continued, “Hopefully, they will think about them through a new lens.”
The best way to describe Lee’s work is thoughtful. The narrative of her animated video installations resonates with questions of identity, old stories translated into a modern context, and the illumination of the human spirit and spirituality.
To see her work, stop by the Silber before the end of the semester, or visit her website at https://www.joyceyujeanlee.com.