In the Studio…

© Jacqueline Rush Lee

Since I’m mostly recognized for my work with the book form, I’ll discuss some of the ideas and methods that inform my work here. My work has primarily investigated the book as iconic object, medium, and archetypal form. Using the book as a raw material, I apply various practices to scramble its formal arrangement to create conceptual art forms that explore concepts of time, knowledge, and communication. Having long considered the book form’s potential as a vessel for expression and contemplation, my book sculptures eliminate written content to create an experiential reading of a structure made from books. I mainly utilize the components found in books–such as pages, inks, binding, covers–deconstructing, then re-presenting them to create new meaning.

Originally inspired by Borges’ concept of the library, I created a seminal body of work in which I developed a process to fire books in kilns without any clay or slip intervention (Ex Libris 1998-2000). Struck by the complete transformation of a book’s material form into an abstract, poetic object with an entirely new narrative, I reveal or transform the physical nature of the books that I work with into evocative art works that re-consider and re-contextualize the book form. Cerebral with emotional depth, these altered books express ideas in veiled layers of meaning; philosophically addressing the unwritten, the unknowable, the confounding. Remaining open to the physical and metaphorical transformations that occur in my working process, these residual book sculptures and installations emerge as a palimpsest – a document that bears traces of the original text within its framework but possesses a new narrative as a visual document of another time.

When I first started working with books, the demise of the book was not an issue, and I still don’t think it is. There will be a balance of actual books and e-books. Books were to me then as they are to me today….vessels of unlimited personal and cultural communication to explore new narratives.

Process is a major part of my enquiry and I focus on deconstructing and re-constructing the book form through various methods. Books are carefully selected for each body of work that I am working on. I work intuitively from a loose theme knowing that my brain is constantly scanning the environment for conceptual associations that I may not immediately recognize. Crescere detail (below), conceptualized from Aorta series (right)..utilizes spiral bindings and book guts..a return to the skeleton of the book; a recurring theme in my work where book structure and human anatomy overlap.(See Marcia Morse essay in ABOUT section)

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Spines 1999 cast book spine imprints, pins (Lower right) & Islands [Atlas Inspiration] Chromascapes Series. Carved, layered paint, pins, canvas 2007 – present. The paint was lifted up from and removed from the canvas. Re-set, re-configured, re-framed. 

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Ex Libris |Fossilized Book Series 1998 -2000. After being struck by the poetic and conceptual profundity of the first book that I fired in the kiln, I developed an exploratory firing process for my thesis where the books were fired without the masking qualities of clay slip. Mostly ephemeral, and skeletal /ghostly versions of books calcified like coral and registered color in the book covers, text and dictionary tab detailing. A new physical state had been uncovered, and a new narrative remained in the place of the old…This work taught me the power of art to communicate the unquantifiable, and that our enquiries always return to, and re-examine the human condition

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Shelf Life 1999-Volumes Inspiration and Inside-Out from Volumes. As part of my Ex Libris exploration I loved how the books swelled and molded into visceral, evocative forms when soaked in water, (in preparation for some firings)…leading to my Volumes series in 2001. The book slices seemed to be returning once more to nature, embedded with a history of narratives within their structure.

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Volumes Series 2001

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Whorls Series…inspired by yarn bombing, why not whorl bomb those empty tree hollows..? Whorl-bombed tree, Kaneohe. Hawaii Telephone books, found color (in fore edges).

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Unfurled from my inked series started in 2007 when I was also working with the sculptural and expressive qualities of paint and sumi-e ink. Referencing page layering, and the earlier faded ink fore edges of my Volumes series..this work invokes the meditative through the act of applying ink and obliterating meaning to create new meaning…(black paint sculpture detail in middle). Additional works from 2007 explore my interest in paint, after my Epic series in which I was extracting colours from the books in a fresco-like technique. Not being a fan of things “flat” I was interesting in making paint sculptural, and 3 dimensional “Ripple” (Yellow) 2007, Cube H5.5″ x W5.5″ x L5.5″ (Acrylic Paint framed) 2007, culminating in Chromascape 1 (Surface Detail in Middle). Chromascape 1 (lower right) was approximately H12″ x W12″ x D4″. It was created entirely from Acrylic paint layers. Because it was larger than Cube, overtime it sagged slightly, but was an interesting investigation into the properties of paint, and what happens when you remove paint from the substrate of the canvas.

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Epic (book stain imprints in gypsum cement 2003-2005)…both an imprint of the books and the former book owners who had left traces of themselves through stains, taping, ex libris authorship and marginalia…forever embedded and encapsulated within a stone-like visual document. I made this work over the course of two years after the death of my mother. I had become intrigued by the narratives of the marginalia found within the found books accumulated from my Volumes series, wondering who were the former owners of these books? Where are they now?…When I wet the books for my Volumes series I noticed how the book covers bled their inks..here as metaphor, utilizing a heat transfer process. Below, transformed encyclopedia and Atsuo’s dictionary

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Asian Literary text inspirations for my Summer Reading Series. This cross-cultural reference is no surprise, living in Hawaii; an intersection between East and West. I’m interested in the meditative mood of found Ukiyo-e texts, expressed through colour, thread and form. How can Buddha nature be expressed for instance? I wanted to capture this mood and aesthetic within gentle floral/organic forms that reference their former texts but seem to whisper softly of another tale

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