JeeYoung Lee’s Elaborate, Hand-Built Fantasy Worlds

by Anna CareyPosted on

Peer into the photographs of South Korean artist JeeYoung Lee, and you are inevitably drawn into her surreal, psychedelic world. In images that are equal parts unsettling and beautiful, giant water lilies sprout from the ground; an ocean of yellow paper clips ripple through a room; one hundred white rats scurry in a dining room set for one.

Although one might guess she has traveled down the rabbit hole to get her shots, Lee actually transforms her tiny studio in Seoul into her very own Wonderland. Extracting imagery from Korean fables and her dreams and experiences, Lee constructs every aspect of the set herself and in a space that is only about 12 by 13 feet. She rejects any digital manipulation in her images, insisting on meticulously crafting every detail, texture and shadow herself. The constructions can take weeks, even months. In this way, her photographs assert a certain devout adherence to her medium. She uses photography as a documentary tool to capture a place that seems made up, but is, in fact, very much real.

Lee’s imagination becomes touchable and livable. The artist herself becomes the protagonist in the fantasies as she captures her own figure interacting with the space. She allows herself to explore these worlds swirling in her mind, but then, just as in a dream, she must wake up. The fantasy is disassembled, and she preps for her next shot.

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