Slow Burn: Exhibition at The Phillips Museum of Art explores East Asian gardens and transformation

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Slow Burn: Exhibition at The Phillips Museum of Art explores East Asian gardens and transformation
Clockwise: Inhabit; Century; Electronic Garden / Slow Burn.

LANCASTER, PA.- Sandra Eula Lee is a multidisciplinary artist who transforms familiar objects and materials, sometimes reframing them and at other times altering their chemistry through the application of heat, fire, or fermentation. Slow Burn is Lee’s new solo exhibition at The Phillips Museum of Art. In the exhibition catalog, Curator Karen Patterson observes, “Certain treatments can render a seemingly dormant object into something more intimate. Whether through endless hours drawing, instinctive and playful assemblage, or firing terra-cotta tiles in the kiln, Sandra pushes objects and materials into the realm of the unexpected, the unexplored. Thoughtful about how different surfaces can trigger emotions and unearth memories, Sandra first unhinges our ties to previous contexts and then instinctively proposes new connections, possibilities, and new narratives.”

Lee often uses industrial materials in her sculptures, including bricks, concrete, electrical wire and other materials of construction that she encounters. Shaped by ideas around demolition and development in relation to her experiences in urban and rural contexts, she reframes these material artifacts within her hand-made forms. Through her installation Slow Burn, Lee explores changes made to the built environment over time, looking from the margins in. Her work Electronic Garden (2021) for example, features colorful electrical wire wrapped around defunct and discarded electronic parts, petrified wood, and various raw minerals. Chunks of cassiterite, bauxite, sphalerite, and chalcopyrite (the minerals mined to create electronics) are visible throughout these ritualistic totems. Nearby, Century (2021) comprises worn and weathered bricks Lee collected from the ruins of an abandoned brick factory. Some are carefully glazed and fired with silica glass, their surfaces reflecting light. A hunk of chalcopyrite (where copper is derived from) glistens near the rough surfaces of exposed brick. In his essay, Art Historian Christopher Bennett notes, “Lee’s works pursue and encourage a state of mind that brings such contradictory forces into a kind of dynamic balance or equilibrium. Yet within the works themselves an underlying disjunction awaits, and Lee traffics, above all, in spaces and gaps ‘in between.’”

For this exhibition, Lee presents her Portable Pond, inspired by the centrally-located ponds found in East Asian gardens, but created from industrial synthetic materials matched to the color of the garden ponds she researched in South Korea and China. To make her pond, she carefully places down each sheet to create a unified whole. A Korean-American artist, Lee first created her Portable Pond for an exhibition in Seoul, South Korea in 2009. Since then, she has revisited this form in different countries and contexts, conceiving the garden as a space of contemplation that’s continually in flux, reflecting its surroundings. “As you round her pond in the Rothman Gallery, visitors can see her series of drawings, The Walking Mountain, and The Work of Memory through the reflective surface of the blue acrylic sheets. Lee creates an opportunity to experience her work from a different perspective and allows for a quiet moment to pause and reflect.” said Lindsay Marino, Director of the Phillips Museum of Art.

Slow Burn is on view through April 28, 2022. An exhibition catalog is available with essays by Curator Karen Patterson and Art Historian Christopher Bennett.

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