Maia Ruth Lee

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Over the past couple years I’ve been working through ideas of economy of languagetransposition and new lexicon. Using processes of archiving, re-assembling, and redefining, the works bear distinct narratives. The AuspiciousGlyphs are a series of wrought iron wall sculptures constructed from the decorative elements that adorn fences and window bars from around New York City. Initially used to embellish structures that secure boundaries, I’ve isolated and combined the found elements into a glossary on glyphs. I’m interested in the idea that language is built for speed, and we can say an extraordinary amount in very well chosen words or symbols, and this means it seldom succeeds in achieving perfect clarity. We learn at a very young age that  means ‘love,’ $ means ‘money,’ and ☠ indicates ‘danger.’ We naturally interact with street signs and logos, we replace text with emoticons, or we suggest our moods by using glyphs, which have become intuitive tools in our everyday lives. The visceral quality of signs and symbols and our innate disposition to interact with them has always fascinated me and has become an entry point into my work.

My paintings also start with the archiving process. Each painting is based on a single page selected from a compendium that catalogues and typifies an array of stylized decorative borders – ranging from art historical motifs to clip art. Women at work paintings also stem from another clip art catalogue that exemplifies women from the 80s and 90s as part of the working class. As the meticulous application of the India ink makes it nearly indistinguishable from printed ink, the paintings introduce an element of immense and nearly illegible labor into the act of transposition and re-appropriation. With careful consideration for economy of space, the author of the original designs shows equal respect to composition and utilitarianism. 

My most recent series is a body of work titled Bondage Baggage. This series of sculptures are inspired and motivated by luggage found in the Kathmandu airport in Nepal (my hometown). Most Nepalis who travel abroad are largely migrant workers, usually engaged in heavy labor work in the Middle East. When the workers return they most often bring back valuable goods, such as TVs, new clothes, gifts and presents. They meticulously wrap and bind these objects with tape, rope, tarp, bags, fabric, and boxes in order to add extra safety at theNepal’s infamous airport security. The objects vary in sizes, colors, shapes and pattern, but what struck me the most was that they all had a common aesthetic, a mutual arrangement that was uniformly creative and functional. For the past 5years I’ve been able to document and archive images of the luggage found at the airport, and I’ve been able to recreate some of these objects as sculptures with the title Bondage Baggage. These two words are synonyms in the sense thatBaggage is derived from the French word <baguer – to tie up>, and I have been exploring these objects as not just a physical commodity, but as an emotional and observational study.



Bachelor of Fine Arts, Hong-Ik University, Seoul, Korea
Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design; Vancouver, Canada


2016 Eli Ping Frances Perkins Gallery, NY (Gallery since closed)


Upcoming: Four Pillars, L’INCONNUE Gallery, Montreal
2017 IRL, Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery, Philadelphia
2017 We might not have a planet left soon, curated by Adrianne Rubenstein, 68 Projects
Gallery, Berlin
2017 Microcosm, Roberts & Tilton Gallery, Los Angeles
2016 NADA Art Fair, The Journal Gallery, Miami
2016 Casual Water, Fireplace Projects, Springs, East Hampton
2016 A Being in the world, curated by Jayson Musson, Salon 94 Gallery, NY
2016 Summer Reading, Fortnight Institute, NY
2016 Anthem of the Sun curated by Pali Kashi, Canada Gallery, NY
2016 Salon 57, 247365 Gallery, NY2015 The Newsstand curated by Lele Saveri, Museum of Modern Art, NY
2015 Under Heavy Manners curated by Cali Thornhill-Dewitt, V1 Gallery, Copenhagen
2015 Freedom Culture curated by Graham Collins, The Journal Gallery, NY
2015 Womanhouse, Eric Firestone Gallery, East Hampton, NY
2015 Collection 4, Mmuseumm, NY
2015 Please excuse our appearance, 247365, NY
2014 Straight, Common Center, Seoul2014 Nature Morte, Gallery RueVisconti, Paris
2014 Collection 3, Mmuseumm, NY
2013 Imago Mundi curated by Diego Cortez, Venice Biennial, Italy
2012 Editions W/, W/ Projects, Nada Art Fair, Miami
2009 ANLAIDS, Galleria Browning, Asolo, Italy


2008  2009 FABRICA, Benetton’s Communication Research Center, Treviso, Italy


Paintings of Illustrations of Women at Work, Peradem, 2017
Something Extracted, Exhibition A Editions, 2016
GRAMMAR, Artist Feature, The Picture Room, NY, 2016
The Absence, 8-Ball Publications, 2016
Bondage Baggage, Pauwau publications, 2016
RATS1, Heavy time books publications, 2016
Auspicious Glyphs; NY Art Book Fair, MoMA PS1, 2015
Exotic Matter; self published, 2015Never Going Home; Ed Varie, 2015
From Now On (Anymore); Sorry Archive, 2015
The Center for Growth; INNEN publications, 2014
Salvage, Petrella’s Imports, Suzanne Geiss Gallery, 2013
Snake paper weight, Artists’ multiples; Printed Matter, 2013
The SEA issue, COLORS Magazine 2011
Imperial Valley; w/ Peter Sutherland; February 2011
North Fake; w/ Peter Sutherland; November 2010
Signs and Voices; with Peter Sutherland; Kathmandu, Nepal; May 2010
Chillzine; co-founder and editor; 2006  2010PRESS
2017, NY magazine, the CUT FROM THE STUDIO