The New York Times, October 20, 2023
Threading Memories / MiKyoung Lee to Open at the Princeton University Art Museum's Art@Bainbridge Gallery on October 21
Shaped by a childhood fascination with textiles from her home in South Korea, MiKyoung Lee’s work includes dynamic large-scale sculptures and wall-mounted pieces that reflect her interest in domesticity and the ties of family.
Princeton, NJ – Threading Memories, the Korean-born artist MiKyoung Lee’s first solo museum exhibition, will open at the Princeton University Art Museum’s Art@Bainbridge galleries this fall (October 21, 2023, to January 7, 2024). The exhibition, which features richly textured large-scale sculptures and wall-mounted works, will explore themes of domesticity, family ties, and the ways in which we process memory and experience.
The exhibition was shaped by the artist’s early fascination with the textiles present in her childhood homes in Korea. The weaving methods of those textiles inform Lee’s practice of twisting and knotting mass-produced products such as pipe cleaners, zip ties, and twist ties, producing objects that process and memorialize earlier chapters in her life.
“MiKyoung Lee’s works are a perfect fit for the Art@Bainbridge galleries, with intimacy, domesticity, and reflection at their core. We are delighted to have these thoughtful works on display that evocatively capture what many people contend with—how to process and reflect upon memories of our lives,” said Zoe S. Kwok, Nancy and Peter Lee Associate Curator of Asian Art.
Among the highlights of the exhibition is Bubble, an installation of three hanging sculptures whose amorphous forms were created in response to the ways the mind works in the relaxed—but sometimes fraught—state of sleep. The undulating forms reflect the importance of dreams to processing and revising memories, anxieties, and hopes. The installation has an inherent “floating” quality, hovering like a dream between sleep and consciousness.
One gallery in the exhibition focuses on nature, drawing on the artist’s experiences visiting her grandmother in her village on Geoje Island at the southernmost tip of the Korean peninsula. The rural area—which has no stores or cars—provided an environment in which the future artist played with other children from sunrise to sunset.
Also on view is a group of works dealing with traditional labor and its gendered practices. Lee grew up surrounded by women who wove blankets and stitched clothes in long-established traditions of fiber craft. The works of art in this gallery are threaded and stitched “drawings,” illustrated odes to fiber work and to the women who perform it. To create Untitled, the largest piece in the gallery, Lee worked countless single strands of thread over several weeks; the density of the pattern suggests the time-intensive process.
One of the earliest objects in the exhibition, Bubble #3 (2008) is a bold sculptural form in an assertive red color. The shape of the sculpture and its color reference a woman’s womb, evoking both a sense of nurturing comfort and also hinting at the seismic changes to the female body brought on by childbirth.
“In my work, I see a metaphor for life,” said Lee. “The layers of tangles and twists in my works are a significant part of life. Accumulating tangles is part of life. The threads in these seem chaotically ordered, but they come together beautifully; they become reordered to create
something new, with new textures and contours. I really love these ways of thinking of life.”
MiKyoung Lee was born in Geoje City, South Korea. She trained in fiber arts, printing, drawing, and fashion in Korea before emigrating to the United States in 1993. She is now the director of the School of Art, Design and Art History at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Threading Memories / MiKyoung Lee is curated by Zoe S. Kwok, Nancy and Peter Lee Associate Curator of Asian Art.
A gallery project of the Princeton University Art Museum, Art@Bainbridge is located at 158 Nassau Street in downtown Princeton and is open Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is free.
About the Princeton University Art Museum
With a collecting history that extends back to 1755, the Princeton University Art Museum is one of the leading university art museums in the country, featuring collections that have grown to include more than 115,000 works of art ranging from ancient to contemporary art and spanning the globe. Committed to advancing Princeton’s teaching and research missions, the Museum also serves as a gateway to the University for visitors from around the world.
The main Museum building is currently closed for the construction of a bold and welcoming new building, slated to open in Spring 2025.
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