Born in Busan, South Korea, Maia Ruth Lee arrived in New York City in 2011 after living between Kathmandu and Seoul. Deeply informed by questions surrounding the self in times of dispersion, mobility, and rootlessness, Lee's multidisciplinary practice spans photography, video, painting, and sculpture. Using translation as an apparatus, Lee transmutes her works between mediums, connecting themes of borders, community, and language, with embodiments of carriers, loss, and self-preservation through process and materials. Relocating to Salida, Colorado in 2020 influenced much of Lee's recent work—the expanded space of her new setting is evident in the shifted work. Unraveled in order to be opened, layers of the Bondage Baggage serve as grids, atlases, maps, and readers. The impressions and tracings make way for Lee’s tender navigation of the contours and accumulations of a life.

Language as a mechanism in its ability and failure to shape and give account to experiences, memories, and emotions has been a major thread in Lee’s work, as for those whose lives are precarious and unrooted—maps, atlases, and banners become a device that calls to mind their life of movement, and often, loss. Lee’s use of india ink, with its reference to calligraphy, points to a human compulsion for storytelling, mark making, and archiving. Rather than lingering in futility and loss, Lee’s work opens up a passage way, forging new lexicons that give form to lives of transience and their stories, beyond immediate and accepted forms of legibility and comprehension.

Maia Ruth Lee has held solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (CO), Francois Ghebaly Gallery (LA), and Jack Hanley Gallery (NY). Lee has participated in numerous group exhibitions including the Aspen Art Museum (CO), 2019 Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, Helena Anrather Gallery, CANADA gallery, Studio Museum 127, Salon 94, Overduin & Co. Gallery, and Roberts & Tilton Gallery. Lee attended Hongik University in Seoul, and the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver, Canada. Lee was the recipient of the Gold Art Prize in 2021 and the Rema Hort Mann grant in 2017. Her work is held in the public collections at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
  • Maia Ruth Lee, B.B.Kukki 1-1, 2024
    Maia Ruth Lee
    B.B.Kukki 1-1, 2024
    Ink on canvas
    60 1/2 x 45 x 2 inches
    153.7 x 114.3 x 5.1 cm
  • Maia Ruth Lee, B.B.Letter 1-3, 2024
    Maia Ruth Lee
    B.B.Letter 1-3, 2024
    Ink and oil on canvas
    60 1/2 x 68 x 2 inches
    153.7 x 172.7 x 5.1 cm