By Anand Venigalla
Seung Lee, professor and director of the Fine Arts program, is curating a new exhibit
at the Islip Museum of Art called “Diaspora.” Other artists who are participating in the exhibit include Puneeta Mittal, Eliška Mörsel Greenspoon and Andreas Rentsch. The goal of this exhibit is to convey the diversity of human culture and identity and to challenge the ideas and structures of the contemporary art scene.
“Having migrated from other parts of the world to the United States, all four participating artists of “Diaspora” have expressed their diverse experiences of culture and identity in their work by expressing alternative narratives and challenging the ideas and structures of the contemporary art scene,” a press release said.
In June of this year, Lee exhibited “The Miracle Mural Project” for the Hua Quan International Art Village in China. “It was about peace and miracles, and I did a piece about my own miracle. I consider myself as a person who’s living in a miracle kind of dream,” Lee said.
Lee came from a background of poverty. “I came from South Korea. I came into this country when I was 15, because my family was so poor,” he said. “Each day, looking back at where I came from is a miracle; I would have never imagined myself today in this position [as a professor],” Lee commented.
Lee’s art focuses on the use of “waste” in the creation of new artworks. “We are in a very wasteful society; we have a tendency to throw away things too easily, so I have tendency to use artwork from people’s throwaways and giving them a life again,” he said.
“Because that’s how I felt like my life is about. I was being thrown away by the society, as my father died when I was so young, the government didn’t help us, and so we were struggling to live, begging for just the basic housing and food. So it felt like I was recycling myself in a sense,” Lee continued.
Lee has been teaching at Post for 28 years. He finds it enriching, despite his concerns about administrative lack of interest in the arts. “I’m trying to encourage each student as an individual, what they bring into class. [My method] has been very successful,” he said. “I think current administration does not support art too much. It’s too much involved with business aspect. Therefore, we do not get enough support from the administration. But students are fantastic. I just love each student; they bring so much into my classroom. It has been such a reward to deal with young artists who want to succeed.”
One of Lee’s favorite artists is Jenny Saville, a contemporary British painter known for her large-scale painted depictions of female nudity and transgender people. “I think she is a very honest, skillful painter who captures individual struggle in our society so beautifully.”
Lee advises students and artists to persist in life. “I always tell them, you cannot give up. Especially in art. It is a struggle. But as long as they are willing to put their hours and hard work, reward will be there for them. I am a living proof. I always tell them that I came from a struggling family, came to the United States, could not speak any single English word, and went to college and drove a taxi cab in the city to support myself. But I never gave up on my want [or desire] to be an artist.”
Professor Lee teaches Life Drawing I & II, Painting I & II, Art 15: Advanced Painting III, DrawingI & II, Art 613: Painting I, Art 614: Painting II, and Art 615: Painting III.
“Diaspora” is on display from Oct. 18 to Dec. 31, 2018.