Maia Ruth Lee

Maia Ruth Lee (b.1983, Busan, South Korea) lives and works in Salida, Colorado. Recent solo exhibitions include François Ghebaly, Los Angeles, CA; MCA Denver, CO; Jack Hanley Gallery, New York, NY and Eli Ping Frances Perkins Gallery, New York, NY. Lee’s work has been featured in numerous group exhibitions, including the Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, CO; Canada Gallery, New York, NY; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY.
April 17, 2023
Tell us about your practice
I’m an artist based in Colorado in a small mountain town that has a population of 6,000. I have a studio there and I like to work in many different forms; sculpture, video, photography, painting, installations, ceramics, and writing. I moved there from New York in 2020 during the height of the pandemic with my partner and child. We live a simple and quiet life, with access to a lot of nature. I think the extra space and time has inspired my art practice.
There is an important but often obscured relationship to performance within your practice. How does movement play a role in your work?
Labor and performance naturally become embedded within the sculptures and paintings. Recorded through materials and mark-making process, the works innately consider movement as an integral theme of diasporic conditions.
Can you share a bit about how ideas of inheritance play a role in your practice? Perhaps, specifically through your new video work titled, “The Letter”?
Video is still quite a new format for me, ’The Letter’ being the second video I’ve made. Inheritance in relation to spirituality and/or generational mirroring open up new ways to work through complex themes of family, language and translation.
The ideas behind your on-going series, Bondage Baggage, reflect on notions of diasporic migratory life. How does the changing materiality of the work (from different types of sculptural forms to wall-based paintings) speak to this theme?
For me, the painting translates as the skin of the Bondage Baggage sculptures, and the flattening of the sculptures result in more formal investigations of the grid patterns that result from the negative spaces created from the mark-making process. The grid speaks to the themes of borders of the Bondage Baggage sculptures, perhaps unlocking topographical imagery of maps and atlas’ of migratory bodies.
What has been inspiring you lately?
I recently read Gloria Anzaldúa’s seminal book Borderlands/La Frontera. Junni Chen the director at Tina Kim Gallery so pointedly saw connections between Anzaludúa’s writings and my work; and it inspired us to use an excerpt from a poem she wrote, as title of my show “The skin of the earth is seamless.” Her work explores the hybrid identities of Chicano and Latino people that were formed within Borderlands; created through colonialism, violence and capitalism. Often times completely disregarded and marginalized, the border identities are formed through surviving traumas that are generational, deeply rooted in imperialism. Presenting resistance to this history, she suggests that a new consciousness of the Borderlands is in the making, that the remapping of Borderland identities through migration of diasporic bodies is subverting colonial paradigms.
What is next for you?
I’m currently in Korea as I write this, I’m here visiting family with my son Nima. I am focused on resting and enjoying my son soak in Korean culture, food and language with his relatives.

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