High Touch – A New Book Featuring the “Power Plant” Series

I wasn’t expecting a delivery today but Fedex dropped off a large box. Opening it up and pleasantly found “High Touch” in it. Published by Gestalten in Berlin, it features the “Power Plant” series, a set of three cut paper works. Among the artists in the book, there are many fellow artists including Do Ho Suh whose work I admire, Mia Pearlman, Gregory Euclide, and Olek.

High Touch, a new book featuring the “Power Plant” series is published by Gestalten, Berlin, 2012.

Questions from Karla Nixon, Fine Art Student, Durban University of Technology, South Africa

1) In interviews you have had, the question ‘why paper?’ often comes up, you mention its humbleness, the familiarity everyone has with it, as well as the personal and cultural significance you have with rice paper. My question is, why is paper the most suitable medium to convey your concepts of power, sacrifice and survival? Do you think you could use any other medium as effectively?

The fragility of cut paper creates the strongest contrast and paradox against the concepts that are dense and complex. I don’t think there is a better material/medium that can be as effective.

2) I have found, through my experiences, that the technique and medium can easily overpower the conceptual underpinning. Are there certain devices that you employ to either overcome or utilize the seductive quality of the paper-cutting?

Cut paper historically links to craft and reeducation is important to unlink what’s expected and understood of the medium. It is my goals to re-inform and challenge people what cut paper could be capable of conceptually and ask them to look beyond just the material and techniques. To achieve that, it is very important that my work is idea-driven. The idea comes first and foremost. I tend to construct highly complex narratives and they justify (even require) the intricacy and labor-intensive process that follows. I don’t necessarily want or try to overcome the seductive quality of cut paper. I want viewers’ attention so when they look closer, deeper, and longer, they realize there is a lot more to it than meets the eye.

3) Other then tackling contemporary issues in your work, what makes you a contemporary paper-cutter? If you didn’t mention it in the above question, what, if any, postmodern strategies/devices do you employ in your work? (please refer to specific works if you feel applicable)

I utilize the computer in my work to compose images for the cut paper and my work has a level of digital aesthetics. Using a highly sophisticated machine to prepare for what is created entirely by hand is interesting and quite refreshing if you consider how most things are made since Industrial Revolution.

In forming the image, the method I use takes images at their face value to generate new meanings and concepts within the work, eradicating the inherit burden of time, space, geography, culture, and context. There is plenty of high and low culture conflation in my work and essentially the images are complex and fused collages of fragments. As a result, my work is often an irony and parody, with or without playfulness and humor.

In “Tsunami-Oblivious” for example, the waves are referenced from Houkusai’s famous woodblock print, the girl on the couch is a recent photo taken in a Malaysian village, I placed a photo of myself taken in my studio as one of the characters floating in currents, the oil rigs are from different countries around the world, the plane is the US Airways flight that landed safely on the Hudson river, and virtually all the other images are existing and from different sources.

Bovey Lee, “Tsunami–Oblivious”, 2009

4) What is your favorite work you’ve made to date? Why? Please include the concept behind the work.

I very seldom think about what work is my favorite. A work is an open door to the next work and to the next, and so on and so forth. However, there are several pieces such as “Hanging Gown”, “Atomic Jellyfish”, and “St. Sebastian Fantasy” that I consider to be significant in setting the tones and directions for other works.

Bovey Lee, “Hanging Gown”, 2006

Bovey Lee, “Atomic Jellyfish”, 2007

Bovey Lee, “St. Sebastian Fantasy (front)”, 2006

5) If you have time, please tell me about your work “Baking McMansion”.

“Baking McMansion” is a piece about what we broadly define as “a good life” today – a family of working parents and beautiful children living in and expanding an extravagant, mansion-like dwelling with luxurious vehicles, domestic helpers, manicured landscaping, and etc.. I compare this life building and expectation to baking a huge, fancy cake on the pedestal.

Bovey Lee, “Baking McMansion”, 2011

Gallery shots of Bovey Lee: Undercurrents at Nevada Museum of Art

Thanks Brian Eyler, Registrar of the Nevada Museum of Art for taking these photos. Bovey Lee: Undercurrents is on view now and runs thru Janurary 2, 2013.