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Breathing life through art

Dong Hee Lee, a Korean immigrant, will be presenting her artwork at Yegam Art Space in Flushing through July 1. Photos courtesy Yegam Art Space
TimesLedger Newspapers

A new art exhibition explores the origins of human life through abstract sculptures and paintings. Artist Dong Hee Lee’s new solo exhibition, “The Story of Life,” runs through July 1 at the Yegam Art Space at 196-50 Northern Blvd. in Flushing.

The pieces that attach to walls, hang from the ceiling, or stretch across the floor, are inspired by the human creation process, as the egg and sperm join into a zygote and begin the earliest stages of development. A hanging collection of gelatinous orbs evokes eggs or the division of cells, while an orderly stream of wall-mounted pieces brings sperm to mind.

The pieces are color-coded, with black structures reflecting masculine reproductive cells and white representing feminine ones. Lights and shadows play a part in the show, notably in an LED light series that explores the development of the human embryo.

Originally from Korea, Lee earned her bachelor’s degree in fine art from Long Island University in 2009 and completed her fine art master’s degree there in May. Her work has appeared throughout New York City, including solo shows at the LIU Sculpture Gallery in 2010 and the SAL Gallery in Brookville, NY last year.

“The Story of Life” reflects a shift from Lee’s early work, which focused on what she called “our contemporary culture of death.” Exploring themes of violence, pain, and self-destruction, these early works were in part aimed at making audiences face uncomfortable ideas about dark subjects.

But in recent projects, Lee came to believe that showing audiences disturbing imagery created more of the alienation and suffering that she wanted to critique, and decided it was time for a change in focus.

“Now I am more interested in portraying the infinite potential of the beginning of life—a time and space before the restrictions, boundaries, and pressures when society determines who we are,” said Lee. “I want to create artwork that evokes life before identity, the open future that exists before one enters the world.”

But she emphasized that creation also comes out of a complex and sometimes brutal process of competition and survival, which can occasionally veer into dark territory. In the exhibition, Lee tries to evoke what she calls “the drama and beauty of our invisible origins.”

Lee uses hot glue as her primary material, which allows her to create the abstract organic forms of webs, clusters, globes and pouches.

“I create spheres out of a matrix of hundreds of interconnected rings of hot glue, extruded from a hot glue gun,” said Lee. “Sculpting with hot glue is extremely versatile, as I can work on a delicate scale or across large areas by building up accumulations of small units or covering extensive forms with the glue mesh.”

Lee described the Yegam Art Space as an ideal location to showcase her work, in particular finding that the space’s high ceiling and huge window allows her to better connect with her audience.

“There are many possibilities for developing my material technique in new directions, and exploring new concepts and methods in future projects,” said Lee.

If You Go

Dong Lee Hee Solo Exhibition

Yegam Art Space

196-50 Northern Blvd., Flushing

Through July 1

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