Featured Artist Steven Young LeeSep 01, 2023 - Sep 30, 2023

Curatorial Statement

Exhibition Posted Online: Monday, September 4, 2023 by 10 am MT


Steven Young Lee is an independent studio artist in Helena, MT. From 2006-2022, he was the Resident Artist Director of the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts in Helena, Montana where he maintained an active studio practice while orchestrating an organization devoted to excellence in ceramics. In 2004-05, he lectured and taught at numerous universities throughout China as part of a cultural and educational exchange in Jingdezhen, Shanghai and Beijing and spent two months in Seoul, South Korea studying ceramic tradition and history. In 2005-6 he was a visiting professor at Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver, B.C.

Lee has lectured extensively in North America and Asia. In the Fall of 2016 he was one of four artists featured as part of the Renwick Invitational at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. In March 2013 he participated on a panel, “Americans in the Porcelain City,” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Also in 2013, he was one of several international artists invited to participate in “New Blue and White,” an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA featuring contemporary artists working in the blue-and-white tradition. In 2019, he had a solo exhibition at the Portland Art Museum. In 2021, his work was included in “Crafting America”, a survey of contemporary craft at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and OBJECTS:USA 2020 curated by Glenn Adamson in partnership with R&Co in New York, NY.

His work has been collected by the Smithsonian Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Crystal Bridges Museum of Art, the Portland Art Museum, the Newark Museum of Art, the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, the Everson Museum of Art, the Four Seasons Hotel in Seoul, Korea, and many private and public collections.

Lee earned his BFA and MFA in Ceramics from Alfred University.


Growing up in the United States the son of immigrant Korean parents, I am often situated between cultures looking from one side into another. Living and working in metropolitan centers such as New York, Chicago, Shanghai, Seoul and Vancouver, as well as the rural communities of Alfred, Jingdezhen and Helena has raised questions of identity and assimilation. I have experienced being an outsider in the country of my heritage to being one of a minority of Asians in Montana. My work allows me to re-interpret and confront questions of place and belonging. Having begun my artistic career learning Asian pottery techniques in a Western education system, I am also continually investigating the sources and ownership of cultural influence.

The objects I create collect elements of form, decoration, color and material from various cultures while questioning failure, expectation and intent. They offer a collision of influences from various origins–Chinese, Korean, French, Dutch, English, Minoan, etc. reflecting my passion for historical ceramics and insights on the past. Ceramic production has long been influenced by an industrial standard of perfection and I commit myself to the integrity and craftsmanship of form and decoration in each piece. Deconstructing and imploding the forms creates a visceral reaction that defies the human desire for perfection and confronts the perception of value. It is in this act that I hope to challenge and redefine what is beautiful.
-Steven Young Lee