Bovey Lee: Bathing in the Forest of House Plants

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Bovey Lee: Bathing in the Forest of House Plants

Dec 4 — Feb 5, 2022

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Rena Bransten Gallery is pleased to present Bathing in the Forest of House Plants, an exhibition of new work by Los Angeles based artist Bovey Lee.

Lee’s chosen medium of cut paper (a traditional Chinese folk art) creates synergy with her political and autobiographic narratives, and this exhibition continues to chart her experience as a Chinese immigrant and reflects on her experience of the pandemic and the associated rise of anti-Asian sentiment. Already buffeted by the anti-immigration politics of the last presidential administration, Lee’s new works explore, through the metaphor of common house plants, two contrasting states of being made apparent during the Covid lockdown. Using images of anthurium, orchids, cacti, and bamboo removed from their native habitats, Lee imagines these plants as safe inside (surrounded by familiarity and protected in solitude) and at risk outside (surrounded by uncertainty and the unpredictability of public spaces).

Each plant Lee has chosen represents a guiding principle: orchids for hope, lucky bamboo for patience, anthurium for growth, and cactus for protection. The plants are potted and interlaced with the images of domestic objects – windows, hour glasses, shopping carts – perhaps a reminder that our surroundings are manufactured. The artist has additionally included various portraits of herself, showing the necessity of adaptability for self-preservation in the face of unprecedented challenges.

A one-minute looping animated video with original score titled Projection-Bunny Ears Cactus (Indoor) is also included in the exhibition. The piece was made in response to the recent upsurge in persecution of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) which heightened Lee’s certainty during quarantine that home was the only safe place. The imagery in the video speaks to resilience and self-actualization, and the freedom that comes through being one’s own protector.

Lee’s process is meticulous and labor intensive, and the work is rich with detail and nuance. Each element included is carefully chosen and leads the viewer on a sort of scavenger hunt to discover how all these elements fit together, requiring our keen attention and a creative mind.

About the artist: Bovey Lee’s work in cut paper and site-specific installations focuses on the impact of migration on people and the environment, and human’s conflicting desires for the preservation of nature and urbanization. Born in Hong Kong and practicing Chinese calligraphy since the age of ten, Lee studied painting and drawing in her formative years, completing her BA degree in Fine Arts at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. In 1993, she came to the United States as a painter and earned her first Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of California at Berkeley, and a second MFA in Digital Arts at Pratt Institute in New York. Her works has been exhibited extensively, including in shows at the Fuller Craft Museum, MA; Nevada Museum of Art; Museum of Craft & Design, CA; Brooklyn Museum of Art; Museum Bellerive, Zurich, Switzerland; Blackburn Museum, UK; Museum of Fine Arts, Beijing, China; Fukuoka Museum of Art, Japan; Hong Kong Museum of Art; Museum Rijswijk, The Netherlands; among others. She currently lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.

Growth-Anthurium (Outdoor) — Bovey Lee, 2021, Chinese Xuan paper on silk, 16 x 16 inches