MFA Candidate: Lesley Art + Design

Faculty Advisor: Alex Jackson

Artist Mentor: Julia Rooney





Excavate:  uncovering, unmasking, and unearthing. What does it mean to be an artist as an excavator, and more so, what happens when the physical action of excavation is prioritized over painting, drawing, or any mark-making? I assume the role as excavator in order to find what is in the underbelly of the material and in my practice. My initial desire to create was to get messy and discover what the tools were capable of doing while searching for ways to communicate fragility and vulnerability. What better way to examine fragility than to dig and carve away at the work without the pressures of turning out an aesthetically pleasing masterpiece?

Implementing transdisciplinary methodology that consists of borrowing printmaking techniques (relief) and instruments (cutting tools) and then applying them in a non-printmaking way to a plethora of different substrates challenges a system previously established while testing the strength and fragility of the materials. My work has always been very additive and subtractive, but currently, I have flipped the sequence; I carve first, then build. Different outcomes are forced to emerge when different parameters are set. Additionally, in the printmaking world, the matrix only lasts for so long before it is worn out and no longer printed. When I push my new system in a hyperactive deconstructive way through carving, the final outcome no longer matters. The process that contains the significance, and the outcome sometimes does not even survive the carving. 

It is paramount to record the process to document what is valued. Additionally, my time-based media eliminates any preconceived responsibility of producing a final piece thus allows for hyperactive digging to occur. I want the voyeur to experience my vignettes as I did while I was carving away at the piece, so I film in an aerial perspective. I keep the camera low to the ground so the voyeur can be included in the process.


The following statement and body of work were used to apply to the program and were presented during the first residency.

The impetus to create started as a need to feel the materials with my bare hands and to discover what they were capable of doing. As an inquisitive child, exploring art was a natural process, yet it remained at the superficial level only touching the aesthetic side of creativity through collage techniques, craft, and mark-making. As my life progressed, I was faced with many hardships, and my work began to shift to a deeper, darker investigation of identity, self-worth, perception, and healing. I explore the intersection between my internal energy and the external influences that have percolated throughout my life by creating mixed-media abstract pieces with or without figurative graphite drawings. My work satisfies an innate desire to physically feel the materials while communicating vulnerability. The main theme that is prevalent throughout my work is fragility. I have faced much adversity and trauma throughout my life, and it is consistently explored through an intuitive, fluid process. Over a decade ago, I left a volatile world to navigate the world as a young, single mother. At the core, my work is the visual record of the many fragments surrounding my story. My most recent body of work combines mixed-media abstraction on wood panels. My pieces tend to be somber in mood and touched with the muted overcast tones from my hometown of Portland, Oregon. Chance dictates my process, and the work grows as I react to the formation of shapes, negative spaces, and textures. I prepare wood panels with a mixture of gesso, acrylic ink, and stain. After establishing the groundwork, I build up several layers with an array of materials including, but never limited to, tissue paper, transfer paper, gouache, acrylic, gold leaf, oil stick, and graphite stick. I then deconstruct the work by sanding and/or scraping away areas to expose the underbelly of the piece. This process repeats as much as it needs to until the work effectively communicates fragility and tension; there is chaos and order in each piece. Life is a series of layers being built on top of each other, but the foundation and history is too significant to ignore and mask. There is beauty in the past despite how ugly it is because the present and future were built upon it. My goal is to mimic the trials and tribulations of life through my art while exposing hope and beauty that may have been hidden within.

AARYN LEE - 2020

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