Susie J. Lee feels like an artist you can trust. Among the developing artists in the UW MFA grads show, Lee, a new member of the collective SOIL, comes across as old-souled.
The 33-year-old former Yalie (and before that, North Dakotan daughter of Korean immigrants) majored in molecular biophysics (she still dresses like a science student at a morning seminar), taught science in a tough New York school, got married and divorced, took up amateur pottery, and gradually became a serious artist, studying with Akio Takamori and Doug Jeck in ceramics at UW. She works in video, paper, twine, wood, water, and sound, not clay, but she knows her materials the way a trained potter does.
For Noli Me Tangere, she projected a video of her finger running beneath stretched canvas onto a paper dome, so it looks as though the finger is pressing on the paper. But the touch is at a remove, and the proposed coupling of the dome and the image never happens; they remain, like separated lovers, in the throes of longing and denial. Her Consummation is a little erotic symphony of digital, physical, and disembodied parts. She lit two strands of twine on fire, then shot video of their smoking shadows as the burned bits fell to the floor. She turned the video on its side so the bits seem to fly off to the left, and projected it on a smooth, curved piece of wood the length of her body, set to a Bach piano prelude she played slowly to match the duration of the burning.
Her installation in UW's Ceramics and Metal Arts Gallery this month, Fermata, developed a buzz in its only four-day life. It was a video of paper uncrumpling projected on a milky pool in an otherwise dark room, to the whispered sounds of one person trying to leave another for the day. The letting go becomes fraught, as one asks to hang on to something from the other: "Just this hand. Just this thumb." I wish I'd seen it.