(Above: One of Kum Ja Lee’s intricate installations now on display at Lane Community College; photo courtesy of the artist)

By Randi Bjornstad

Korean-American artist Kum Ja Lee’s work is a dizzying display of threadlike fibers that come together gracefully and at the same time soar apart, as they explore and explain her own life and her art, stemming from her own experience as a person whose life has straddled the juxtaposition of cultures, philosophies, and physical environments.

Even her name is an example of balancing those opposites. In Korea, as in many Eastern cultures, she would be known as Lee Kum Ja, surname followed by given names. In the United States, as in many Western countries, she is the opposite, Kum Ja Lee.

Lee explores all this and more in an exhibit of her work, titled Perception of Time and Space, now on view at Lane Community College, in the LCC Art Gallery in Building 11.

As she describes her art, “East to West perspectives present in my work become the means for discussing attachment and impermanence, finding balance in an ever-changing social landscape …”

To do that, she studies her both her background and her status “as a Korean-American living in Oregon,” Lee said in her artist’s statement, at the same time that she more broadly fills space with beautiful patterns and colors that exude harmony and grace.

Her method doesn’t simply involve individual fibers, however, but also includes weaving and felting them into other shapes, and also using dripped and sprayed paint to vary the composition and to create, as she puts it, “fortuity,” which is defined variously in English as accident, fortune, circumstance, and luck.

A decade ago, Lee says, her art took the form primarily of “traditional fiber art,” but since then it has evolved into much more varied — and much larger — installations that combine the soft materials usually associated with fiber art with very hard materials such as nails, concrete, and wire that “push the boundaries of concepts, materiality and the monumental.”

Another way she expresses her artistic self is through comparisons of Western and Eastern concepts such as time, which in Western cultures is considered linear and in Eastern cultures circular. As a result, her installations include both long, parallel, rigid fibers intersected by swooping, dynamic ones that embrace both aspects of her own life and dual cultural experiences.

Lee has earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fiber arts and visual studies, from the University of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, as well as Hongik University in Seoul, South Korea. Her work has been included in many group shows and two solo shows in Eugene and Portland, as well as numerous exhibits in Seoul, South Korea.

Perception of Time and Space, art installations by Kum Ja Lee

When: Through March 16, 2023; artist talk at 1 p.m. on Thursday, March 2, at the LCC Art Gallery

Where: Lane Community College Art Gallery, Building 11, main campus, 4000 E. 30th Ave., Eugene

Gallery hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday during academic year

Email: artatlane@lanecc.edu