Maia Ruth Lee

Over the past couple years I’ve been working through ideas of economy of language,
transposition and new lexicon. Using processes of archiving, re-assembling, and redefining, the works bear distinct narratives. The Auspicious
Glyphs 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 the
Nepal’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 5 years 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 that Baggage
is derived from the French word , and I have been exploring these objects as not just a physical commodity, but as an emotional and observational study.