When I first found Michelle Jane Lee on instagram I was captivated by her simple wooden bowls and the quiet artistry of her photos. Then I saw her painting series in which she uses a color alphabet to transform personal letters into abstract beauty and I was sold. Sarah and I couldn’t stop looking at her paintings trying to crack the secret code all the while marveling at the refined artistry. Her Lucky 13 interview is a reflection of her work. You can tell this girl is brilliant, that she has a million things rolling around in her mind at once, yet she somehow manages to produce a thoughtful, eloquent and simple answer. As her artist statement says “There is a complexity, density; to put it simply, there is a lot of heart in the often times sparse drawings and paintings.”
And I’m just going to say it- Best titles of paintings and drawings EVER.
1.What are you working on at the moment?
I keep a full time studio practice with a focus on my paintings and drawings. Currently I’m in the middle of a series called “But Now You’re Just Los Angeles And, Everybody Lies” that’s about two years old, exploring and developing within certain set of boundaries pertaining to experiences I’ve had with people I’ve met since living in LA for the past 4 1/2 years. I’ve also begun creating my own line of functional objects, right now in wood and concrete but I would love to expand my materials as I become familiar with others. I also have an on-going collaboration with an incredible dancer/choreographer – trying to bridge the gab between the ephemeral experience of dance/theatre with the permanence of visual art (at least in the case of drawings, paintings, etc.) These are some of the main projects but there are another few handful of ideas and projects going. Every single moment of my life is filled with some sort of creation and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
2.What drives you to do what you do?
Love and feeling (too much.) And a relentless devotion to and faith in, Beauty.
3.What is it like to be a woman in your line of work?
Being an artist isn’t easy for anyone, but I do think there are still disadvantages to being a female artist. There’s no hiding the fact female artists are grossly under represented in museums and in galleries. I get excited if I see a list of names for a group show of 8 artists and if there are even two women among them. How sad the expectation is set this low? Women are no less talented than men, so this lack of opportunity and representation has to reflect something far more, sinister? But it is getting much better. People are speaking up and fighting for it, both men and women. I have a beautiful and supportive family of artists that see no gender in art and I’m hopeful little by little this gap will lessen and will one day disappear completely.
4.Do you have any regrets?
I have so many of them. But to me ‘regret’ is not a dirty word and I hate the shame behind it. It’s a reminder of mine and all of our imperfections. It keeps me growing, learning and maybe mostly importantly, humble. I’m still evolving but I’m happy to be who I am with big thanks to mistakes and regrets and lessons learned from them.
5.Do you have any scars?
Most memorable ones would be my tattoos and a tiny graphite dot embedded on the palm of my left hand from accidentally stabbing myself with a pencil while working. I like to think it gives me super drawing powers. Kind of like Spider Man after his spider bite.
6.What do you believe in?
Love, beauty, sincerity, compassion and devotion.
7.What is your best dream?
Twice I dreamt the exact same dream where I helped the smurfs fight Gargamel. We built this incredible contraption – frames built around my body with compartments for the smurfs to be positioned in with various weapons. I heard somewhere if you have the same exact dream three times, it becomes real. Sometimes I wonder if I’m just living my life waiting for that third smurf dream and finally be a hero.
Sometimes I also wonder how I have friends.
8.What could you not live without as an artist?
Working set of hands, a curious and insatiable hunger deep in my heart and in my gut.
9.What is your guiltiest pleasure?
I personally don’t feel guilty about any of these but some may say it’s my love of terrible Korean pop music, craving and having cheeseburgers and chocolate sprinkled donuts for breakfast.
10.Who is your Woman Crush Wenesday?
Rashida Jones is my woman crush every day.
11.Which woman artist out there today would you love to shine the spotlight on?
I’m going to go close to my heart and choose my bestfriend of 14 years, Emily White. She’s a singer-songwriter. We’ve talked about this “crazy dream” of ours – being a musician and an artist, since we were teenagers together. We’ve gone through so many ups and downs, and it’s hard to say how well we’re doing now or how far we will go, but the fact we are still doing it makes me so happy and proud.
12.Where can we stalk you? (websites, blogs, social media info)
You can also follow http://www.homelahello.com for a dance project I’m hosting/participating in during the month of August.
13.Anything else you’d like to (over)share?