Jin Lee

(American, b. 1961 Korea; resides in Chicago, IL)

“I am interested in working with heroic and sublime subjects of landscape art, such as mountains and oceans, but exploring them within everyday situations and seen with a subjective and intimate view. My goal is to develop a sustained relationship and a connection to the place I live by paying attention to and photographing particular things over and over again.” — Jin Lee

Jin Lee’s work centers on the sensuous experience of a place. Her photographs are in part a highly personal investigation of the city where she lives and the surrounding natural environments. But they also explore the possibility of transposing the sublime onto a more intimate scale. Lee has described herself as “working with the heroic and sublime subjects of landscape art, such as the vast spaces of mountains and oceans, but exploring them within everyday situations,” and she is attentive to the ways a familiar place can provide a framework for one’s life yet still provide a powerful sense of wonder and discovery.

Lee’s series Lake Effect comprises portraits of winter trees and small waves along the shoreline of Lake Michigan, tracking, in the artist’s words, the “various states and moods” of the lake. The Small Mountains series appears to portray imposing mountain crags but in fact focuses in on mounds of road salt and dirt that the artist discovered at various outdoor sites. These two series extend Lee’s interest in the formal changes that gradually occur in response to weather and time, a theme that she introduced in an earlier project documenting the Illinois prairies throughout the seasons. Equally though they highlight the contingency of one’s relationship with space by fostering ambiguities of scale and they set up a negotiation between an appearance that echoes archetypical representations of majestic landscapes and minute details that reveal a more modest reality.

Lee received a BA from Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts (1983) and an MFA from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago (1988). Her work has been exhibited widely in the United States, Europe, and Korea, and is held in numerous collections including The Art Institute of Chicago, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. She is currently an associate professor of photography at Illinois State University.