The Islip Art Museum on Long Island, New York, is a haven for contemporary artists who are seeking to exhibit recent works. From March 8 to May 3, 2018, an exhibit titled “East Meets West” will be presented at the museum. An opening reception between the hours of 1pm and 4pm is scheduled on Saturday, March 10. The reception will include music made by a Chinese hammered dulcimer courtesy of musician Jenny Yang and lots of Korean beverages and foods.

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“East Meets West” is a group exhibition that contains nine artists. Curated by artist and professor Seung Lee and exhibition designer and assistant curator Stephanie S. Lee, the artworks in this show are inspired by Eastern cultures, philosophies, and aesthetics. The artists on display range from the experiences to the emerging and mediums range wildly. Among the presented styles are collage, installation, oil painting, watercolor, stained glass, stitched fiber, and traditional Korean folk painting.

The ‘East Meets West’ group exhibition will be on view at the Islip Art Museum on Long Island. / Image via Stephanie S. Lee.
The ‘East Meets West’ group exhibition will be on view at the Islip Art Museum on Long Island. / Image via Stephanie S. Lee.

The exhibition will also feature opportunities for Americans to become more familiar with Korean culture. For instance, on April 19 between the hours of 3 PM and 5 PM, artist Sei Ryun Chun will host a Korean tea ceremony followed by an art workshop by artist Dong Kyu Kim.

The exhibition was greenlit by the Islip Art Council and the Town of Islip. Participating artists include Sueim Koo, Boy Kong, Dong Kyu Kim, Susan Kelly, Sui Park, Stephanie S.

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Lee, Seung Lee, Jayoung Yoon, and Evan Venegas. Moreover, there will also be a solo exhibition of artist Sei Ryun Chun, titled “Rounded,” held at the same time inside of the Museum's gift shop gallery.

Exhibit designer and assistant curator Stephanie S. Lee was born in South Korea and studied art from the time she was in high school. In 1996, she moved to America and earned a degree at Pratt Institute. Today, she is working on a Masters degree at Pratt majoring in “Museums and Digital Culture.” As a Korean-American, Stephanie has a first-hand understanding of the fusion between Eastern and Western cultures and she enjoys exploring the topic via her roles as an exhibition designer and curator.

Stephanie is also a teacher and the founder of “KoreanFolkArt. Org” whose artwork has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere.

Recently, Stephanie offered an exclusive interview where she discussed working on the “East Meets West” exhibition, her experiences as a curator, art teacher, and artist, and some exciting future events.

Artwork displayed at the Islip Art Museum

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you become an artist and a curator and what inspired you for the “East Meets West” show?

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Stephanie S. Lee (SSL): Since the museum collected professor Seung Lee's sculpture in 1995, he has a long-term relationship with the Islip Art Museum. Recently, the executive director of the museum, Lynda Moran asked Seung Lee to curate year-long exhibitions with the museum, including museum's Open Call and other activities related to art. Seung Lee came up with the theme “East Meets West” as for the start of scheduled exhibitions, and invited me to work as an assistant curator and an exhibit designer.

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My artwork is also based on Korean folk art implementing modern western perspective which suits well with the theme, so he added me as one of the participating artists as well.

MM: How did you come to work with Seung Lee and what was it like to curate a show together?

SSL: Seung Lee is a Director of Fine Arts and a Professor of Art at Long Island University, Post campus. He taught many students for decades who now became great artists and I had chances to exhibit with those artists a couple of times. While exhibiting with them, they all spoke highly about Professor Lee and more I knew about him, I became to agree with his students. So, it was my pleasure when he asked me to be a part of this exhibition. Although we didn’t have much time to prepare, the whole process went very well. He had a clear idea about the exhibition and provided full support on every aspect, to move forward within tight deadlines.

MM: How did you find out about the Islip Art Museum and what was the process of securing this venue like?

SSL: Islip Art Museum director Lynda Moran suggested Professor Lee plan exhibitions for their venue with the support of Islip Art Council. We had meetings based on Professor Lee’s curated proposal to discuss details about the exhibition. And we were pleased to have beautiful waterfront building that has three gallery rooms, gift shop gallery, and spacious meeting room for the reception.

MM: What is it about the artworks in this exhibition that you think will most appeal to viewers?

SSL: Although all of the artists share Asian philosophy with western esthetics as their common theme, each has a totally different choice in terms of a medium that result in diverse rays of visual. It’ll approach each audience with different stories and voices and that’s what’s interesting about this exhibition. The structure of the museum building offers different enclosed gallery spaces by sections and it helps viewers to follow very different narratives of each artist throughout the exhibition.

Starting with beautiful stained-glass mosaic pieces by artist Susan Kelly, Dong Kyu Kim’s hand stitched Korean traditional garment is both visually and conceptually interesting. Sui Park’s large organic-formed wall piece made of zip ties and is hard to miss, and Jayoung Yoon’s delicate sculpture made by her own hair is also eye-catching. Evan Venegas’s paintings are subtle yet powerful with layers of harmonious colors and composition using circles. Connected by Boy Kong’s stylish blue water-colored fish called 'Butterfly fish,' the gallery three is showcasing Boy Kong & Stephanie S. Lee's dynamic hybrid tiger paintings and Lee's other animal paintings with diamonds inspired by Korean Folk art.

In gallery two, Sueim Koo’s bright colored abstract collage paintings and Seung Lee's paintings depicted tree works well with natural sunlight and landscape seen through the full windows of the room. And it’s good to see Seung Lee’s whimsical sculpture titled ‘Tea Time.’ displayed. He created it in 1995 and it is in the museum’s permanent collection.

Cultural events, music, and other exhibitions

MM: You have lots of cultural events planned for the exhibition too, like tea tasting and Chinese music. How do you think these events will strengthen the impact of the exhibition?

SSL: Curator Seung Lee intended to have many events associated with the theme other than just visual. So, the audience can enjoy the two months exhibition period with multiple experiences. During the exhibition, there will be Korean tea ceremony performed by artist Sei Ryun Chun (on April 19, Thursday 3pm-5pm) and artist workshop by Dong Kyu Kim will perform on April 14 Saturday 1-4 PM. Also, there is artist Sei Ryun Chun's solo exhibition called 'Rounded' happening at the museum gift shop with her signature meditative circle shaped artworks and hand-made crystal jewelry objects. In collaboration with Stella Shieh at Asian-American Cultural Circle of Unity, Islip art museum director Lynda Moran invited musician Jenny Yang to play Chinese hammered dulcimer at the opening reception. Korean food and beverages were served during the reception.

MM: Which works are you displaying in this show and why did you select those specific pieces?

SSL: I picked pieces that can show strong characteristics of Korean Folk Art (Minhwa) with a modern perspective that connects eastern and western cultures. Tiger and magpie is the most representative subject matter in Korean Folk Art painting. So, I included four paintings of tiger and magpie paintings along with dog and rooster paintings. With Boy Kong's piece, “Drunken Tiger Loses His Stripes Under The Same Sun,” gallery three is filled with paintings of Asian animal creating powerful and creative energy.

MM: What other exhibitions and/or events are coming up that you want to mention?

SSL: I'm currently participating in the group exhibition, “Art as Sanctuary” at Mikhail Zakin Gallery and exhibition “Archipelagos of the Creative Mind” at Pratt Library. And I’m planning to have a solo exhibition at the Closter Library in New Jersey in 2019.

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