Ahree Lee’s digital and textile art exhibition, “Work in Process,” will open in the Grunwald Gallery of Art Friday and will be open through March 8.
Lee’s work, which she said has been partially inspired by her Korean-American culture, is part of the IU Arts and Humanities Council’s Korea Remixed festival.
She will lead a gallery walk in the Grunwald Gallery at 3 p.m. Feb. 25, where she’ll answer questions and speak on her work. The event will also be available on Facebook Live.
Lee, who received her master’s of fine arts in graphic design from the Yale School of Art, said her early work was inspired by her family. Growing up, her father filmed home videos during mundane moments or birthday celebrations. Lee said these videos, as well as being surrounded by film equipment, made video editing feel familiar to her from an early age.
“There was something about video editing that really felt like magic to me,” Lee said. “Watching people or things in motion on a little screen, and you could control them, you could edit them together, run things forward or backwards and manipulate them in time – it felt a little bit like being God.”
“Work in Process” examines people’s conceptions of technology, and the often undervalued labor of women that goes into both technology and other realms of the economy, Lee said.
Lee said learning that the technology behind the Jacquard weaving loom was connected with the first computers’ invention inspired her to create pieces that combined craft and technology. As a former Silicon Valley technology employee, Lee combined her personal experience with computing and its historical conceptions into her work.
“Weaving is so associated with women,” Lee said. “Then on the other hand, the field of computer science and the technology sector are really heavily dominated by men right now.”
Lee said ‘80s movies like “Revenge of the Nerds” and “War Games” popularized the idea that computers were for young men, even though she said a majority of the first computer programs were written by women.
“I want to change people’s idea of who belongs in the technology world, who technology is for and what technology is, so that more people feel that they belong in it,” Lee said. “If you have a group of people who are all homogenous creating products, then they’re not going to address the needs of everyone.”
One of Lee’s pieces, “Timesheet,” is a data visualization of how Lee spent her time for one week in 2018. After having her daughter, Lee spent long hours focused on childcare and household chores. She said getting paid nothing for childcare that felt even more difficult than her job in the technology industry made her reflect on how society values labor.
“I felt like I was turning all these endless hours of cooking and cleaning and childcare and household work into something that was actually valued by society in some other way,” Lee said. “I was turning it into an artwork which had cultural value and even monetary value.”
Grunwald Gallery Director Betsy Stirratt said she thinks Lee’s approach in combining craft and technology will be intriguing to students from different academic backgrounds.
“They can see someone who sort of combines their past education into this work that incorporates a lot of disciplines,” Stirratt said. “I think that’s a good thing for artists to see and a good thing for students to see.”
Grunwald Gallery Program Coordinator, Linda Tien, said she initially discovered Lee’s work online. After following Lee’s exhibitions for a few years, she decided to bring Lee into the gallery for Korea Remixed.
Tien said she thinks the exhibition is full of learning opportunities. She said she hopes people will come out to see such important work.
“It travelled a long way from L.A.,” Tien said. “You can see really amazing artwork right here in Bloomington.”