Teapot by Aimee Lee, 2014, Lacquer on hanji, 7.25″ x 7″
Teapot by Aimee Lee, 2014, Lacquer on hanji, 7.25″ x 7″
Are we there yet? by Sarah Rose Lejeune, 2020, Twined waxed linen, upholstery cord, wick, milk paint, sand, ink.
Stopped by Aimee Lee, 2020, Onion skin dye on corded and twined hanji, 5.75″ x 3.75″ x 3.4″
no one is here right now by Sarah Rose Lejeune, 2020, Cast paper– cotton, abaca, linen, rag, shredded office paper, cardboard, each door is roughly 72″ x 24″ x 3″
Main and Euclid Avenue Galleries
on view November 20th 2020 – January 16th 2021
Please join The Sculpture Center on Thursday, December 10 at 5pm for a virtual artist talk with Aimee Lee and Sarah Rose! Moderated by artist Lisa Haque, these artists will discuss their work, their process and how their work intersects craft and contemporary art.
Aimee Lee and Sarah Rose Lejeune met at Oberlin College in a papermaking and book arts course that the former taught when the latter was a college senior. The mentoring relationship continued at an advanced hanji making workshop at the Paper Book Intensive, and their professional ties remain to this day. Each of these artists have significant bodies of experience in papermaking, though they also work in other media. While their work is obviously different, many of their concerns mirror each other: interiority, private and domestic spaces, and functional-looking objects. Both artists are preoccupied with the familiar and with the things that humans make—whether shelter, clothing, furniture, or household tools.
One of the powerful abilities of paper is to remember. Fold a sheet and that trace remains. Twist a piece around another and when unwound, they stay kinked. Press it into a mold and it pops out in that very shape. Yet an adjacent ability is to slightly diverge: a crumpled sheet can be ironed flat but will become supple rather than stay crisp. The wavy rope can pull taut as it winds around other cords, becoming almost straight. The dried paper retains the edges of the mold but shrinks in unexpected places and starts to sway in a different direction from its parent. Made of paper or not, the textures and surfaces of this exhibition speak to accumulations of touch and time.
Both artists are fascinated with functional objects and how they refer to stories about people and places. Even when divorcing the actual function from a form, there is no way to divorce the idea of that function. A door may not act like a door, but we will always think of why we close or open it. That brick may not bear weight, but we will always think about how bricks stacked become a wall. These pieces rely on the comfort of these familiar ideas: that is a pot, this is a chair. But each object here is more than the form or the memory of its functional counterpart. These works derive honesty from a place beyond precise replication. Whether rendered in an unexpected material or position, the “off-ness” of these digressions is a source of power. When something familiar shows up a little differently, we pause to really see. We reconsider our relationships to people and to things. We remember, and we seek to understand what brought us to this moment right here.
I wanted to handle objects that other people, people who lived thousands of years ago, had handled. It was the stories I was wrapped up in, though, not the objects. I could sit and stare at an ancient vessel for hours, just imagining who made it, who held it, who drank from it. It was always the stories I was hungry for.
—Lisa Donovan, Our Lady of Perpetual Hunger
Since childhood, I have made paper objects. When I learned to make paper in graduate school, I felt its pull immediately and spent as much time as I could in the paper studio. Soon after, I became intently curious about papermaking history and practices in Korea, the country of my ancestors. My yearlong fieldwork there led to more clarity as I embraced hanji, handmade Korean paper, as a material to root my life’s work. Hanji has existed for almost two millennia and functioned in many ways, from papering the floors, doors, and windows of architectural spaces, to storing tea, water, and wine, to capturing those spent beverages in chamber pots. The stories behind the uses of hanji are as myriad as other materials, and many remain untold. To hear these forgotten tales and write updated history, I make these objects anew.
The bodies of work here span my papermaking life before I knew how to make hanji, to today. My hands have worked hanji for a dozen years: twisting, plying, twining, dyeing, crumpling, smoothing, and sculpting paper into objects that refer to artifacts from a Korea that no longer exists. What still remains there is a clear delineation of outside and inside spaces: what you look like and how you behave are very different in one or another place. Prior to industrialization and mass production of disposable objects, straw was used to make outdoor tools and paper for indoor ones. While my pieces know their ancestors—a shoe, a teapot, a wedding duck, a dustpan—they are also objects that I want to see in the world today, alive in this moment.
My work focuses on the things that define interior space as the contours around which our experiences form. Casting is a process of replication and repetition. Paper has memory. Twining is an act of tension. Baskets are sites of holding. Somewhere between traditional craft processes and bricolage, my work across media expresses a desire for completeness and a patience with the unformed. My recent work is mimetic, a re-presentation of the ordinary as an essential record of personal and cultural information. “Household” things, like furniture; and the components of architectural space, like doors and windows, are familiar. Even when the sculpture is only a fragment, it is sharply recognizable. We want to see it as simply a functional thing, but the disruption of normal context or material form makes that more difficult.
I think of how the doorway existed before the door did. The frame was a hole before it could be closed. Doors are contradictory– at times they represent choice or opportunity; at other times they are obstructions made to be shut and sealed. As much as they are portals, doors are barriers too, delineations, definitions of inside and outside.
The poem Bliss and Grief by Marie Ponsot is simply:
These cast paper doors suggest salvage of an imaginary place. The same door presented again and again gets at a lack of fulfillment, something unresolved, and evading disappointment. Like the rocking chair, the doors present a frenetic quality of calm, not quite getting anywhere, but too uneasy to stay still. Ingress, egress. Back, forth. Bliss, grief. No one is here– right now.
Born in New York City, Aimee Lee is an artist who makes paper, writes, and champions Korean papermaking in the U.S. (BA, Oberlin College; MFA, Columbia College Chicago). Her Fulbright research on Korean paper led to her award-winning book, Hanji Unfurled, and her building the first hanji studio in North America. She exhibits internationally; her work has shown at the Fuller Craft Museum, Islip Art Museum, Museum of Nebraska Art, Allen Memorial Art Museum, and the Korean Cultural Centers of the Korean Embassy in D.C. and Korean Consulate in NYC. Library collections include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, Stanford University, UCLA, and Yale University. Some of her artist-in-residence engagements include Albion College, Art Farm, Jentel, Guapamacátaro Center for Art and Ecology, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Oak Spring Garden Foundation, Ragdale, Saltonstall Arts Colony, Santa Fe Art Institute, and Weir Farm Art Alliance. Her research has been funded by the US Fulbright Program, Korea Fulbright Foundation, John Anson Kittredge Fund, American Folklore Society, and the Center for Craft. She travels the world to teach and serves her regional community as an Ohio Arts Council Heritage Fellow, teaching papermaking and book arts at Oberlin College and the Cleveland Institute of Art. In 2021, she will return to Korea on a Fulbright Senior Scholar grant for further research of Korean papermaking tools.
Visit Aimee Lee’s website.
Sarah Rose Lejeune is a sculptor, papermaker, artist originally from Massachusetts. She graduated with High Honors in Studio Art from Oberlin College in 2015. She has followed various opportunities for residency, work and education at The Morgan Conservatory in Cleveland, OH, The Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale, NY, The Dirt Palace in Providence, RI, Dieu Donné in Brooklyn, NY, and more. SR completed the Core Fellowship Program at the Penland School of Craft in the Winter of 2018. She continues to work at Penland as the Books and Paper Studio Coordinator, and maintains a steady studio practice.
Visit Sarah Rose Lejeune’s website.