Turning embroidery into art at Rosemont College
Mainly Art
Sububan & Wayne Times, March 27, 2008
By Marie Fowler

Ke-Sook Lee (b.1941) appears to have artistic excellence all sewn up-literally! Threads of memory, on view at Rosemont College’s Lawrence gallery through the end of this month, demonstrates the artist’s audacious manipulation of domestic lines.

During World War II, the Korean —born Lee remembers, she shared a room with her grandmothers, neither of whom, like most of their generation, could read or write. Still, Lee recalls being awakened early in the morning by the “rustling sounds of hand sewing,” and she saw passion expressed “through patient embroidery,” These memories have inspired Lee’s exceptional fiber compositions.

It must be noted here that many of us continue to explore the embroidery and needle arts learned at grandmother’s knee. What sets Lee apart is her creative freedom to celebrate a hole, rather than seek to mend it-to give her needle free rein where most of us copy a pattern. That’s the difference between an artist and everyday woman.

With this long connection to “women’s work” Lee turns to everyday practices of washing and starching, ironing and sewing, to create her work of art. She “draws” with needle and thread on antique tea towels and doilies. “In each stitches,” Lee notes in her Artist’s Statement,“see the breath of an unknown craftswoman. I adopt the stain, wrinkles, wornout holes and mending of daily life.”

Lee came to the United States inn the 1960s with her husband, settling and continuing her art studies in the Midwest. Some 16 years spent as full-time mother and homemaker enhanced, rather than squelched, her creativity. She met the challenge of juggling her responsibilities as wife and mother while nourishing her artistic self in a most unusual way.

Hence, many of her works reflect a material, domestic aesthetic. Antique dollies, embellished by the artist, drift across the gallery floor, rendering a 12 by 6 foot square foot space as Grandmother’s Flower Garden. A gossamer-thin tarlatan apron of gigantic proportions drapes across another corner of the gallery. Old-fashioned embroidery hoops frame delicate stitchery.

Lee’s installation feels ephemeral, almost other-worldly — yet it is constructed from the humblest of household linens. Fiber artists will not want to miss this installation.

Thread of Memory is shown in conjunction with Phialdelphia’s International Fiber Symposium and the Contemporary Korean Fiber Exhibition, sponsored by the University of Arts. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. and on weekends by appointment. Call 610-527-0200 or log on to