“Dopamine Dressing,” created by artist YehRim Lee and curated by Natsu Oyobe for the University of Michigan Museum of Art’s Asian Art Weese collection, is a focal point of South State Street. The exhibit is open to everyone and is displayed in one of UMMA’s exposed glass rooms, visible from the outside. Lee’s colorful and vibrant ceramics instantly sparked interest among UMMA visitors, who can experience the art through this August. In January, The Michigan Daily conducted an interview with Lee regarding her work.
The Michigan Daily: What drew you to art originally? How have you evolved as an artist since then?
YehRim Lee: Both of my parents are ceramic artists in Korea, so I grew up with ceramics all around me. I studied traditional Korean ceramics and art in my undergraduate studies in Korea. Going to graduate school in the United States changed my artistic practice. I learned to express myself and develop my individual artistic voice.
TMD: What was your intention with “Dopamine Dressing?” Can you explain the message and details about the exhibit? What techniques and/or processes did you use to create your pieces?
YL: The title of the show comes from the fashion trend of “dopamine dressing,” which involves dressing in bright colors to evoke positive emotions. My sculptures are lively and bright, so I was thinking about how art affects the mind, especially since I made most of the works during the dark times of the pandemic. Most of my work is ceramic sculpture, which I build by hand and fire multiple times to layer glazes.
TMD: Do you have any artistic inspirations? Is there an artist in particular that you are inspired by?
YL: There are many artists who have influenced my work, but mostly it is the practice itself that leads to my inspiration. It is about getting into the studio and touching clay every day.
TMD: Do you have new projects in the works? What does your future as an artist look like?
YL: Right now, I am preparing for a series of shows in South Korea. For these shows, I am displaying some of my more functional ceramic work, like lamps, tables and chairs. I am also setting up my own studio in the Joshua Tree area of California.
TMD: Do you have any advice for students at the University of Michigan who want to pursue a career in the arts?
YL: The art part of the journey is wonderful; the career part is difficult. Find some mentors to help walk you through the career aspects of being an artist.
Lee ultimately achieved her mission to shine light in the darkness of our post-lockdown world. The colors and technique of her porcelain creations evoke emotion and memory from all those who come to see them. I visited the exhibition after class one day. Her pieces have a specific movement to them — twisting between dynamic color variations, porcelain and metal. Lee’s work was reminiscent of artist Yayoi Kusama’s colorful and emotionally stimulating work. In high school, I worked on many research projects, diving into Kusama’s complicated pieces. Speaking with Lee, I was reminded of certain artistic themes once again. Immediately enchanted by the vibrant color hues and unique qualities of Lee’s ceramics, I felt urged to reach out to her myself. It was a pleasure to speak with her and I wish her all the best in her future artistic endeavors, despite selfishly hoping she has a show again in Ann Arbor.
Daily Arts Writer Skylar Wallison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org