Arts ATX

A Q&A with Mi Young Lee

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Abstract artist Mi Young Lee found her niche in western techniques of painting and abstraction. She attended the University of South Dakota, where she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine arts.

“Eternal Spring,” an abstract painting among Lee’s Perpetuity series

Now based in Austin, Lee creates paintings to express her feelings visually. Her artwork comes in “geometric forms, organic shapes, gestures, and texture, combined in a kaleidoscope of color to create an image of harmony, energy and optimism.”

Interview conducted by ChinLin Pan

Photos by Mi Young Lee

Art Alliance Austin, a nonprofit organization that promotes art, culture and creativity, brings back its 65th annual Art City Austin, where many artists, including Lee, will showcase their work. The event will take place this weekend on Apr. 25-26 along Cesar Chavez St. between Guadalupe and Lamar.

Shuffle: How many times have you been at Art City Austin?

Mi Young: I have shown at Art City more than five times. While I have returned to Austin last year, more than 20 years ago I was showing my artwork for Art City while the show venue was at the Laguna Gloria Museum ground. I remember one year back then I was pretty close to the delivery date of my boy, and one of my clients, an ob-gyn, kindly checked me out at Seton hospital during the show period when I was not feeling well.

Shuffle: What are you looking forward to about this year’s event?

Mi Young: Last year, I reunited with several of my old clients who I originally met at the other art venues. It was also great that I met new clients, including those living in downtown Austin area who commissioned me several new paintings. This year at Art City, I am also showing a series of new paintings on paperboard in frame, in addition to paintings on canvas. I am very excited to see that my new paintings will make many people happy during the Art City, whether they eventually own my painting or not.

Shuffle: What is your favorite thing about Art City Austin? The art, the music, the food, the street entertainment or all of the above?

Mi Young: As a new local artist in Austin, Texas who spent most of my early career in Midwest America, I feel Austin is a very vibrant and dynamic place with full of young and open-minded people. I love food and music in Austin as much as diverse mix of art-loving population.

“Blessing,” an abstract painting in Lee’s collection

Shuffle: You are an abstract painter, and you use oil on paperboard or canvas. What inspired you to pursue abstract art?

Mi Young: The source of inspiration comes from the objects and events. My paintings are the expressions of my emotions as they are influenced by the impressions I receive from the events and environments. As the energy of the event or environment changes, my perception changes and corresponding emotional response determines what colors, shapes, markings and material to convey my feeling as energy passes through my consciousness. Abstract paintings have been a perfect tools to translate my feelings to images.

Shuffle: What have you been working on? Do you have any new artwork to display?

Mi Young: Absolutely. I do not return to an art event with same artwork I showed in previous years. I continue to explore new techniques and abstraction. Since last year, I have been continuing with my Perpetuity series on canvas. With a new commission, I have also resumed my unique paintings Assemblage series. During Art City, I also look forward to show series of my new paintings on paperboard in frame.

Lee's Assemblage series pieces display on the wall.
Lee’s Assemblage series pieces display on the wall.

Shuffle: I really like your Assemblage series. The way they are put together on the wall are like pieces of a puzzle. They’re different pieces, but they come together as the “big picture.” Can you tell me more about this series?

Mi Young: Assemblage is a big piece when put together. It 48 inches bottom to top and could span up to 90 inches wide horizontally from tip to tip. I only create this when commissioned from clients and it requires quite an effort to create 11 canvases where each of them portrays different emotions and feelings through its colors and gestures. As a whole, the Assemblage indeed represents all of the themes and ideas I have been trying to express through my paintings: connection, blessing, energy and optimism.

Shuffle: What does your Perpetuity series represent? Does each painting have its own message?

Mi Young: Perpetuity is a series of paintings I have been working on many years. Perpetuity is forever. It is my optimism for the future of the world. Hope and harmony permeate the spirit.    The circles and rings represent the dynamic states of our life process. These are found on most of my Perpetuity series. They are presented in harmony, yet they deliver strong positive energy.

Shuffle: What do you like to do in your free time besides paint?

Mi Young: I like to work on my vegetable and flower garden and cook. On my very unique zen garden, I have a decent size of vegetable bed where I find myself very happy attending all sort of different vegetables and flowers.

To meet Mi Young and many other artists at Art City, click here for tickets.

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