New York City – One blonde girl has a hole in her forehead. Another, her face wrapped in a scarf, seems to have had her eyes ripped out. One sculpture, entitled Halfway Down, is inspired by the regret someone might feel after they have jumped off a building. The sadness in the works of New York-based artist Jennie Jieun Lee is difficult to avoid.
Seoul-born Lee worked in fashion for many years after graduating in ceramics from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in 1999. She was eventually re-introduced to ceramics by her partner, artist Graham Collins, and has not looked back. ‘I love clay. It is a world that is endless with what I can learn, experiment and achieve,’ she said.
The maudlin subject matter is weirdly emphasised by the exuberant, visceral nature of the way they are decorated and the pleasure Lee takes in making. The rich glazes and colour palette draw you into a superficially happy world. It is only once she has pulled you in with all these tricks, that you see that perhaps they are not just busts, but beheaded people. They are not just masks, they are faces ripped apart. Is this deliberate? ‘Yes, all deliberate. That is life. Joy and pain with melancholia,’ she said.
This piece was originally featured in New Wave Clay. You can purchase a copy here.