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Sammy Lee is an artist based in Denver, Colorado. Lee was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea, and moved to Southern California at the age of sixteen. She studied fine art and media art at UCLA and architecture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.


Among her many accomplishments is a performative collaboration

with Yo-Yo Ma during the Bach project tour in 2018. Lee is recently a resident artist at Redline, serves as an ambassador for Asian Art at Denver Art Museum, was selected as a Fulbright US Scholarand operates a contemporary art project and residency space, called Collective SML | k in Santa Fe Art District, Denver. 

Lee's work has been exhibited internationally and can be found in collections at the Getty Research Institute, Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, Spencer Museum of Art, Denver Art Museum, and the Spanish National Library in Madrid.

photo by Kate Rolston


"What use is three bushels of beads if none of them are threaded?"


As the sage Korean proverb suggests—value is in the reinvention, connection, and unification of the fragments. In the studio, this is my guide; I arrange chaotic piles of bits and pieces to realize a whole. Whether in installations or hand-made books, my work transforms and re-contextualizes familiar items into art objects that reflect my personal history.  The creative process resembles my experience of (un)conforming to a new homeland; it calls for certain self-renewal while summoning and translating the past. As a first-generation immigrant who spent much of her youth in a nomadic state, I use found objects and memories as material to investigate a sense of home. 


I keep my hands busy in water; soaking, squeezing, kneading, and pounding layers of papers. Preparing a paper-skin is a laborious and cathartic process; time and effort transform fragile and delicate sheets into a leather-like substrate that is resilient and tough, yet luminous. My paper-skins take the shape of objects, becoming a hollow representation of the original piece (bas-relief). Other times I wrap objects such as suitcases and discarded shop signs to create new three-dimensional artwork with creased textures and scar-like markings resulting from the weight of water that was once present.


Typically these works question socio-cultural issues surrounding a sense of belonging, home, the foreign body, cross-cultural psychology, and immigration. My installations and books are both interactive and relational; installations correspond to the body's range of movement as it explores and performs within the space. I want the viewer’s experience of my art to create new communal stories. The skin-like tactile quality and intimate hand-held scale of books emphasize the more introspective and private meanings. 


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