My work is rooted in the concepts and processes of fiber art traditions. Drawing from histories and contemporary expressions of quilting and Korean bojagi, I work through techniques such as repetition and improvisation. My concerns touch on labor, gender, place, language, immigration, and colonialism. I explore these processes and issues not only in textiles, but also through painting, ceramics, performance, installation, and socially engaged art.
Much of my work is inspired by Korean cultural aesthetics in form and materials. Without reifying or romanticizing Koreanness, my work resonates with ideas of simplicity, lack of waste, and nature. I am influenced by dansaekhwa, or monochrome art, a 1970s Korean art movement that embodied these themes.
Formally, my work offers contrasts: minimalist repetition on the one hand, and improvisation of saturated color on the other. These two aspects are bridged through the common element of making by hand, with the variation and irregularities that arise from making done by humans as opposed to machines. Sometimes, this element manifests as fields of marks, marking time as well as human labor.
Material is the pleasure of the haptic, touching fabric, clay, paper. Material is also about salvaging what has been discarded, the impulse inherited from survivors of war to save and use everything, including the smallest scraps.
I view artmaking as an act of liberation. As an immigrant woman of color, my decision to follow my mind in all its creativity, curiosity, and complexity is a blow against colonization, racism, and sexism. I am honored and grateful to have a life where this is possible.
JeeYeun Lee is an artist, writer, and social justice activist based in Chicago, Illinois. After working in non-profit organizations for over twenty years, she recently turned her attention to artmaking. Her practice explores place, labor, materiality and social issues through the lens of repetition. Some organizations she has been affiliated with include: the Center for Community Arts Partnerships at Columbia College Chicago, KAN-WIN (formerly known as Korean American Women in Need), Korean American Community Services, CAAAELII (Coalition of African, Arab, Asian, European and Latino Immigrants of Illinois), Just Economics, and the Northern California Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. She is a proud graduate of the Movement Activist Apprenticeship Program of the Center for Third World Organizing, interned at Ms. Magazine, and organized with the Asian Pacific Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Network in the 1990s. She has a B.A. in Linguistics from Stanford University, M.A. in Ethnic Studies from University of California at Berkeley, and is a candidate for M.F.A. in Fiber from Cranbrook Academy of Art.
Master of Fine Arts (candidate), Fiber, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI. Expected 2018.
Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, IL (selected coursework 2009-2016).
Master of Arts, Ethnic Studies, University of California, Berkeley, CA. 1995.
Bachelor of Arts, Linguistics, Stanford University, Stanford, CA. 1992.
MEGA (Michigan Emerging Graduate Artists), Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI. 2017.
Annual Group Exhibition, Next Step Studio & Gallery, Ferndale, MI (curated by Narine Kchikian). 2017.
Quilt National 2017, The Dairy Barn Arts Center, Athens, OH (catalog). 2017.
Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month Exhibition, Conrad Sulzer Regional Library, Chicago, IL. 2017.
Cranbrook Academy of Art Annual Scholarship Awards and Exhibition, Detroit Artists Market, Detroit, MI. 2017.
Remedies, Forum Gallery, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI (curated by Kristi McGuire). 2017.
Publications as Author
Forthcoming. “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Korean Americans in Chicago.” Koreans in the Windy City 2. Eds. Hyock Chun, Kwang Chung Kim, and Shin Kim.
2005.“An Exploratory Needs Assessment of 1.5 and Second-Generation Korean Americans in the Chicago Area.” Koreans in the Windy City: 100 Years of Korean Americans in the Chicago Area. Eds. Hyock Chun, Kwang Chung Kim, and Shin Kim. New Haven, CT: East Rock Institute. 183-206.
1998. “Toward a Queer Korean American Diasporic History.” Q & A: Queer in Asian America. Eds. David L. Eng and Alice Y. Hom. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. 185-209.
1996. “Why Suzie Wong is Not a Lesbian: Asian and Asian American Lesbian and Bisexual Women and Femme/Butch/Gender Identities.” Queer Studies: A Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Anthology. Eds. Brett Beemyn and Mickey Eliason. New York: New York University Press. 115-132.
1995. “Beyond Bean Counting.” Listen Up: Voices from the Next Feminist Generation. Ed. Barbara Findlen. Seattle: Seal Press. 205-211.
1993. “Chickenshit.” Witness Aloud: Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Asian/Pacific American Writings. The APA Journal 2:1 (Spring/Summer 1993): 42-44.
Columbia College Chicago, Center for Community Arts Partnerships, Chicago, IL
Development & Communications Director, 2008-2016
Korean American Community Services, Chicago, IL
Associate Director & Director of Community Education, 2007–2008
Interim Associate Director, 2006–2007
Director of Core Services, 2004–2005
Director of Community Education and Organizing, 2002–2004
Center for Third World Organizing, Oakland, CA
Movement Activist Apprenticeship Program, 2002
Just Economics, Berkeley, CA
Program Associate, 2000-2001
RWS Group, Ltd., San Francisco, CA
Desktop Publisher, 1997-1999
Northern California Coalition for Immigrant Rights, San Francisco, CA
Development Associate, 1996-1997
Aunt Lute Books, San Francisco, CA
Production Assistant, 1994-1995