Sculptured paper shines light on traditional Korean dress
This summer, Heights Arts’ Spotlight Gallery presents Hanbok’s Gifts, an exhibition of sculptural paper works by Cleveland artist and papermaker Aimee Lee. In the exhibit, on view through Aug. 6, Lee pays homage to the ingenuity and care behind traditional Korean clothing (hanbok) by using another material from the same heritage, hanji, which requires much discovery and labor to produce.
"Aimee learned hanji—traditional Korean paper-making—from masters and built the first hanji studio in North America at the Morgan Conservatory in Cleveland," said exhibition curator Helen Liggett. "Hanji is remarkably strong and is used to make household items in traditional Korean culture. With Hanbok, she joins craft to the celebratory and autobiographic elements of her art, revealing its versatility and beauty in an entirely new form."
“Dress has been a significant part of human life through its ability to clothe, express and signify,” noted Lee. “It remains a dynamic part of culture that reaches people from monks in prayer to soldiers at war to children in school. My interest in dress is how the material and qualities of handmade paper can be transformed into garments—not necessarily to wear, but to evoke character and capture moods. Though I make paper of all kinds, I am most devoted to hanji. Through my study and experimentation with this durable and chameleon-like material, I have also learned about other Korean traditions and history.”
Lee’s work is exhibited internationally and appears in collections including The Cleveland Institute of Art's Gund Library, Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection, the Museum of Modern Art Library, and Yale University Library. She is the author of Hanji Unfurled: One Journey into Korean Papermaking.
Mary Ryan is on staff at Heights Arts, a nonprofit community arts organization.