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March 9, 2023

An Inside Scoop into Yehrim Lee’s Dopamine Dressing

Artist, YehRim Lee - Installation image of Dopamine Dressing by UMMA Staff
By Emma Cordova

On the morning of February 22nd, I had the pleasure of meeting YehRim Lee, an artist whose solo exhibition Dopamine Dressing is currently on view at UMMA.

Unique in its staging, Lee’s ceramic and metal sculptures are spread out, presented upon platforms, and hanging from walls all painted in different shades of wonderfully vibrant pink. The Student Advisory Board members and I had the opportunity to get the inside scoop on the wonders of this exhibition, and the passions and ideas that came together to bring such a bright playful exhibition to UMMA’s visitors.

So What is Dopamine Dressing
The exhibition, staged by Lee, combines a selection of clay sculptures and metal structures. She is unique in her ceramic-making style as she repeatedly fires her sculptures, and re-glazes once the material is at a stage of near collapse. An SAB member asked the question, “How do you know when the piece is done?” Lee herself has said that there is a clear focus on the theme of “too-muchness,” but when is it really too much? In response to this question, Lee compared her sculptures to that of an individual wearing accessories. Essentially, there is always room to add more jewelry, to add more glaze, and more color, but at some point, things will finally balance. As an artist, Lee has the understanding of her work to know when her extravagant, flamboyant piece is balanced in the sense that she aims for.

What Was the Inspiration for Dopamine Dressing
Lee’s exhibition is inspired by a fashion trend of the same name, promoting the wearing of colorful clothes in the name of bringing happiness to the wearer. This trend, resurrected during the pandemic, inspired Lee to interact with bright colors with the same goal in mind. She mentions finding happiness in the playful nature of creating this type of art; granting herself freedom from the boundaries of texture, form, and shape, allowed her to enjoy the creative process truly. While recounting her process in creating the show’s ceramic sculptures, she described the exhilarating feeling of looking into the kiln and not knowing what she would find.

Pressing further into other avenues of interpretation, the theme of consumerism presents itself in the superfluous nature of this exhibition. Consumer culture has fostered individuals that constantly seek dopamine rushes to stay happy or feel content. And what better way to lay out this tendency than through physical representations of “too much-ness”? The layers of dripping glaze, creating this sticky scene, painfully illustrate the never-ending scene of consumption. When speaking about this commentary, Lee emphasizes that this art was her way of showing the world as she sees it, in the best way she knows how. It is less about making a brash statement as much as using her technique and creativity to create her view of the world through her art.

What’s Coming Up for YehRim Lee? 
The Dopamine Dressing exhibition will remain on display at UMMA through August 2023. While Lee has focused on and excelled in this style of abstract art and ceramic making, she has her eyes set on taking her art into the functional realm. While describing this to me, she offers the example of taking one of her favorite ceramic pieces from this current exhibition and using it as the sitting base of a chair. Essentially, she is finding her artistic vision in functional pieces. She spoke of being in a perpetual state of oscillation between abstract and functionalist art, joking that she will eventually become bored of one style and return to the other, only to do it all over again. And to that, I say, carry on! I am extremely impressed with this solo show as well as the wide range of artistic talents and skills YehRim Lee has. Her childhood exposure to ceramic-making combined with her contemporary creativity and formal education have produced wonderfully unique pieces that still catch my eye (and give me a dopamine rush) every time I walk by.

Photo by UMMA Staff

Related Exhibition

Dopamine Dressing

Artist: Yehrim Lee

December 2022 — August 2023

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