WITHIN THE MARGINS | Contemporary Ceramics
This exhibition includes work by 17 artists who, while residing within one set of perceived margins or another, are working from within to expand or redefine those boundaries, ultimately shifting the lines of ethnicity, race, gender, sexuality, cultural identity or material association.
Exhibition Statement | Curator Steven Young Lee
A margin can be defined as the edge or border of some concrete, or even abstract, category. In and of itself, a margin is innocuous and used to establish a boundary or guideline. We are taught to stay between the margins on a sheet of notebook paper when learning penmanship, or to remain inside a margin of error for an intended result. However, establishing these boundaries can naturally promote a sense of where you or others think you should be, creating a dynamic of being either inside or outside, included or excluded. Being on the appropriate side of the margin is considered safe, acceptable and often encouraged.
Marginalization is driven by the perception of those living and operating well inside the margins. The result that occurs is a projected sense of insignificance to the “other” — that those living outside of the center exist apart from the whole. ?A natural human response is to feel comfortable with what is familiar or similar to oneself but when that response is the result of a limited worldview, the consequence is the alienation of others in an attempt to feel safe. Commonly, this is seen in categories of race, ethnicity, gender, class or sexual orientation, but the desire to marginalize can also take place in areas such as art vs craft, high art vs low art, or in the use of certain materials, processes or concepts. Often these acts of marginalization are an attempt to make one side to feel smarter or stronger and the other powerless or unimportant.
When I was asked to curate this exhibition, rather than prioritizing aesthetic congruity, I was hoping to focus on a common ethos among artists who otherwise might be perceived to have disparate viewpoints and backgrounds. “Within the Margins” includes artists who, while residing within one set of perceived margins or another, are working from within to expand or redefine those boundaries, ultimately shifting the lines of ethnicity, race, gender, sexuality, cultural identity or material association. Each artist is articulating a world view, and the most important aspect of their work is the sincerity of their investigation and quality of their execution. The title “Within the Margins” recognizes that while boundaries do exist, the mere fact of their existence invites — if not demands — that they be confronted, challenged and reshaped.
It was an honor to be invited to curate an exhibition at the newly renovated Penland gallery which is a beautiful space that adds a new dimension to the dynamic campus. Penland has long been an environment where the diverse co-mingling of people, ideas and craft practices has been encouraged and supported. It is a special opportunity to have this exhibition in the midst of that particular creative environment.
I want to thank the wonderful artists who not only made thought-provoking work, but who, as individuals, helped to inspire this exhibition.
Steven Young Lee – Resident Artist Director
Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts
About | Curator | Steven Young Lee
Growing up in the United States the son of immigrant Korean parents, I am often situated between cultures looking from one side into another. Living and working in metropolitan centers such as New York, Chicago, Shanghai, Seoul and Vancouver, as well as the rural communities of Alfred, Jingdezhen and Helena has raised questions of identity and assimilation. I have experienced being an outsider in the country of my heritage to being one of a minority of Asians in Montana. My work allows me to re-interpret and confront questions of place and belonging. Having begun my artistic career learning Asian pottery techniques in a Western education system, I am also continually investigating the sources and ownership of cultural influence.
The objects I create collect elements of form, decoration, color and material from various cultures while questioning failure, expectation and intent. They offer a collision of influences from various origins–Chinese, Korean, French, Dutch, English, Minoan, etc. reflecting my passion for historical ceramics and insights on the past. Ceramic production has long been influenced by an industrial standard of perfection and I commit myself to the integrity and craftsmanship of form and decoration in each piece. Deconstructing and imploding the forms creates a visceral reaction that defies the human desire for perfection and confronts the perception of value. It is in this act that I hope to challenge and redefine what is beautiful.
Steven Young Lee
Steven Young Lee is a contemporary artist working in ceramics and mixed media. He has been the resident artist director of the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts in Helena, Montana since 2006.
Steve has lectured and taught extensively in North America and Asia. In 2004-05 he lectured and taught at numerous universities throughout China as part of a one-year cultural and educational exchange in Jingdezhen, Shanghai, and Beijing. In March 2013 he lectured and participated on a panel, “Americans in the Porcelain City,” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Also in 2013, he was invited to participate in “New Blue and White,” an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston that featured contemporary artists working in the blue-and-white tradition of ceramic production. In the Fall of 2016 his work was featured as part of the Renwick Invitational at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.
Steve’s work is in the collection of the Smithsonian Museum, the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, the Four Seasons Hotel in Seoul, Korea, as well as many private collections. He has juried or curated many exhibitions throughout the country and each year since 2007, he has juried the Archie Bray residency program. Originally from Chicago he lives in Helena with his wife, Lisa, their son, Gavin, and daughter Florence. Steve received his BFA and MFA in Ceramics from Alfred University.
We extend our heartfelt thanks to Steve for working with us on this exhibition – devoting his time and expertise to connect us with these insightful artists.
Jeremy R. Brooks
Jessica Putnam Phillips