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Meet Sammy Lee: “Remind Me Tomorrow”

A Reflection on Immigrant Lives Through Her Lenses

Last Thursday on June 17th, there was a meaningful opening reception at Emmanuel Art Gallery located in downtown Denver. Denver-based, Korean American artist Sammy Lee has been exhibiting her solo exhibition that delves into immigration, motherhood and social prejudice through her lenses. Curated by Jeff Lambson, her exhibition Remind Me Tomorrow features a selection of Lee’s artistic works over nearly a decade.

Remind Me Tomorrow opened its doors to the public on May 25th and will stay open until July 15th, 2021. The exhibition started during Asian American and Pacific Heritage month to celebrate Asian culture and speak out against the alarming bigotry manifested against Asian people.

Remind Me Tomorrow: a Show of Ritual and Cadence explores the value of work, repetition, and ceremony. Referencing the calendar reminders that continually pop up on our phones and computers, we live in an increasingly overscheduled world of appointments and commitments. Sammy Lee’s work asks us to assign value to our tasks, and suggests seemingly monotonous labor actually creates meaning and intimacy. Lee beats, squeezes, soaks, and kneads handmade paper into landscapes of dinner plate settings and suitcase tower sculptures; she reconfigures conveyor belt and food carts into large-scale art installations and crafts tranquil books.

As soon as visitors walk in toward the gallery, a high tower composed of travel bags first grasp people’s attention. Arrived is an ongoing work composed of various sizes of suitcases wrapped in black paper skin. According to Sammy, the color black represents “anonymous identity.”

Approximately more than 150 people participated in her opening ceremony of “Remind Me Tomorrow” on last Thursday at the Emmanuel Gallery. (Photo Yaewon Cho, Colorado Times)

“I was sixteen years old when I left my home in South Korea and became an immigrant in this country. As much as I speak fluent Korean and English, art is my staple language. Through my lenses, I use found objects, memories, and paper-skin to create the sense of home and rebuild long-lost memories,” she said. During an interview with Colorado Times, she mentioned that “As soon as immigrants arrive in the United States, despite our differences and personal stories, we gain anonymous identity.”

One of her most popular art installations at the exhibition is Changing Station, painted in bright red, is about a culture that looks at the space where intimacy meets capitalism. Not many people remember how their mother used to change diapers, but from motherhood, changing infant’s diaper is everyday task as well as an infinite labor. By contrasting the ritual of daily care between mother and child against the capitalistic view of efficiency, she said that she wanted to draw viewers’ attention to how efficiency and productivity impact the most intimate aspects of our lives.

Her art invites us to see the world through the eyes of immigration, appreciating unique cultural views of others while revealing our similarities through shared rituals of work, food, and relationships. Her work is about empathy, balance, and connection. Moreover, Lee’s art asks us to ponder what we do and when and why we do it: remind me tomorrow to work today.

Sammy Lee’s “Remind Me Tomorrow” continues through July 15th at the Emmanuel Gallery, located on the Auraria Campus in downtown Denver. The exhibition is free and open to the public from 10A.M. to 2 P.M. but check with the gallery for the latest info on pandemic restrictions. You can call (303)315-7431 or visit https://www.emmanuelgallery.org/ for more information.

  • Artist’s Bio

Sammy Lee (b. 1975, Seoul, Korea) studies fine art and media art at UCLA and architecture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Lee’s work has been exhibited internationally and can be found in collections at the Getty Research Institute, Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, Spencer Museum of Art, Denver Art Museum, and the Spanish National Library in Madrid. Among her many accomplishments is a performative collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma during the Bach Project tour in 2018.

Rachel Y cho
• BA Journalism&Mass Communication, Korea University • BA International Studies, Korea University • MA International Security, University of Denver

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