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Illuminations: Ones to watch

Highlighting the work of glass artist Ethan Stern

"B Jar with Dragon" | Porcelain, Glaze, Cobalt Inlay | 2015

Illuminations: Ones to watch

Highlighting the work of ceramic artist Steven Young Lee

Written by Michele Corriel  

Michele Corriel

Other Contributions

Synchronicity A Voice in Stone Equus The Archie Bray Foundation Ones to Watch: Artist Jinni Thomas Ones to Watch: Artist Karen Bezuidenhout Ones to Watch: Rory Egelus Ones to Watch: Ceramic Artist George McCauley Ones to Watch: Painter Rick Stevens Ones to Watch: Jon Dick Ones to Watch: Mixed-media Artist Christopher Owen Nelson Ones to Watch: Diana Tremaine Ones to Watch: Josh Elliot Ones to Watch: Doug Smith Ones to Watch: David Barrett Ones to Watch: Howard Knight Ones to Watch: Silas Thompson Ones to Watch: Kristine Allphin Ones to Watch: Chris Morel Ones to Watch: Sherry Salari Sander Ones to Watch: Alan Carr Ones to Watch: Robert Royhl Ones to Watch: Robert Seliger Ones to Watch: Karen Woods Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Ones to Watch: Artist Glendon Good Ones to Watch: Painter Deladier Almeida Ones to Watch: Sculptor Stephanie Revennaugh Ones to Watch: Painter Gregory Packard Ones to Watch: Randy Stromsoe Ones to Watch: Beth Loftin Ones to Watch: Dyani White Hawk Ones to Watch: David Bardwick Ones to Watch: Donna Gans Ones to Watch: Susan Jarecky Ones to Watch: Carrie Fell Ones to Watch: Rose Masterpol Ones to Watch: Bryan Peterson Ones to Watch: Terry Karson Ones to Watch: Lisa Ronay Ones to Watch: Tracy Leagjeld Perspective: Gennie DeWeese [1921-2007] Ones to Watch: Andrew Mann Ones to Watch: Bonnie Teitelbaum Illuminations: Ones to watch Perspective: Frances Senska [1914–2009] Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Ones to Watch: Artist Ralph Wiegmann Ones to Watch: Artchitect Candace Miller Ones to Watch: Architect George Gibson Ones to Watch: Architect Nick Deaver Ones to Watch: Sculptor Bale Creek Allen Ones to Watch: Painter Brianne Janes Ones to Watch: Danae Bennett Miller Ones to Watch: Mark Edward Adams Ones to Watch: Josh Chandler Ones to Watch: Tony Abeyta Ones to Watch: Robert Spooner Marcus Ones to Watch: Ken Andrews Ones to Watch: Michael Kessler Ones to Watch: Jim Dayton Ones to Watch: Rahnee Gladwin Ones to Watch: Geoffrey Warner Ones to Watch: Gwen Samuels Ones to Watch: Kensuke Yamada Ones to Watch: Michael Greenspan Ones to Watch: Chuck Middlekauff Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Ones to Watch: Sculptor Carol Alleman Ones to Watch: Artist Kathleen Dunphy Ones to Watch: Jeweler Jesse Monongye Ones to Watch: Michael Ross Ones to Watch: Furniture maker Charise Buckley Ones to Watch: Sculptor Charles Ringer Ones to Watch: David Slonim Ones to Watch: Catherine Courtenaye Ones to Watch: Ironworker Ted Docteur Ones to Watch: Evert Sodergren Ones to Watch: Jacquelyn Bischak Ones to Watch: Guilloume Ones to Watch: David Coffin Ones to Watch: Francis Di Fronzo Ones to Watch: Jeff Pugh Ones to Watch: Geoff Parker Ones to Watch: Troy Collins Ones to Watch: Dean Mabe Ones to Watch: Shelley Muzylowski Allen Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Ones to Watch: Architect Tim Belton Ones to Watch: Anne Moore Ones to Watch: Painter Flavia Eckholm Ones to Watch: Clive Tyler Ones to Watch: Weaver Cheryl Samuel Ones to Watch: Painter Gavin Brooks Ones to Watch: Tracy Leagjeld Ones to Watch: Jared Sanders Ones to Watch: Shawna Moore Ones to Watch: Aleta Pippin Ones to Watch: Rene Gibson Ones to Wacth Ones to Watch: Mike Krupnick Ones to Watch: Matt Smith Ones to Watch: Stacy Robinson Ones to Watch: Dean L. Mitchell Ones to Watch: Kirsten Kainz Ones to Watch: Susan von Borstel Ones to Watch: Craig Bergsgaard Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Ones to Watch: La Puerta Originals Ones to Watch: Artist David Patchen Ones to Watch: Architect Aaron Kang-Crosby of Spore Architecture Ones to Watch: Frank Marquette Ones to Watch: Architect Susan Desko Ones to Watch: Sculptor Tammy Bality Ones to Watch: Suzanne Wallace Mears Ones to Watch: Clare Walton Ones to Watch: Mike Medow Ones to Watch: Leon Loughridge Ones to Watch: Eric Cobb Ones to Watch: Greg Madeen Ones to Watch: Mary Baxter Ones to Watch: Julia Lucich Ones to Watch: Kevin and Val Pourier Ones to Watch: Marc Hanson Ones to Watch: Preston Singletary Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Ones to Watch: Artist Allen Garns Ones to Watch: Jill Zeidler Ones to Watch: Painter Luke Stavrowsky Ones to Watch: Bill Poss Ones to Watch: Britt Freda Ones to Watch: Painter Cesar Santos Ones to Watch: Troy Collins Ones to Watch: Bryan Christiansen Ones to Watch: Henry Jackson Ones to Watch: Simon Gudgeon Ones to Watch: Gordon McConnell Ones to Watch: Hadley Rampton Ones to Watch: Olivia Pendergast Ones to Watch: Kevin DesPlanques Ones to Watch: Jamie Kirkland Ones to Watch: Brian Scott Ones to Watch: Kyle Polzin Ones to Watch: Ben Pease Ones to Watch: Julie Gustafson Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Ones to Watch: Artist Linda Elliott Ones to Watch: Deborah Berniklau Ones to Watch: Painter Denise Lemaster Ones to Watch: Architect Erik Peterson Ones to Watch: D. LaRue Mahlke Ones to Watch: Artist Crista Ann Ames Ones to Watch: Christopher Ries Ones to Watch: Mary Bechtol In the Studio: Richard Parish Ones to Watch: Florian Roeper Ones to Watch: Greg Kelsey Ones to Watch: Andrew Denman Ones to Watch: Sandra Pratt Ones to Watch: Jeff Williams Ones to Watch: Josh Clare Ones to Watch: Daniel Weaver Ones to Watch: Nora Naranjo-Morse Ones to Watch: Marela Zacarías Ones to Watch: Glenn Dean Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Collector’s Eye: Native American folk art collector Bruce VanLandingham
December 2017 | January 2018


Steven Young Lee’s ceramic work speaks to beauty, culture and identity. Using the delicate skin of porcelain, an innately translucent material that shouts its own fragility, he breaks years of tradition by deconstructing vessels in order to defy the human struggle for perfection.

Porcelain, discovered in China more than a 1,000 years ago, found its way around the world via trade routes such as the Silk Road. It became a commodity and an important part of China’s economic growth. Coveted worldwide, there was a race for other cultures to figure out how to produce it.

“For me, porcelain has a lot of practical applications that factor into my work, including its cultural significance,” Lee says. “The historical ties are important. My work is referencing a lot of history, and I look to different cultures for forms, motifs and patterns and then remix those into the work I make.”

In his series, Fragments, Lee meticulously constructs vessels with iconic Asian imagery as well as European motifs and styles. As the ceramic works pass from country to country, they adapted to their environment and culture; in this way, the objects tie people together. Lee looks at these historical pieces for inspiration and then pulls the elements apart to create new pieces while keeping the integrity of the form and profile.

“Just the decoration on a piece I was recently working on took me 20 hours,” he says. “Once the piece is finished, I will create a break in the surface.”

There are multiple things he’s questioning. First, he looks at how failure can affect the way we value an object. What is our perception of flaws? In contrast, he also questions the idea of perfection.

“It starts to overlap with intention, what is the intent behind the piece and what was my intent as an artist,” Lee says. “Intent becomes one of the most important parts of what people are trying to understand. I’ve seen pieces that exploded in kilns, and immediately thought it’s a failure. But if you remove the failing element, beauty can still exist. Sometimes we don’t allow ourselves to see beauty because we’re focused on other things.”

The brokenness of Lee’s pieces exhibit a sublime anguish, a wrenching in their denial of the ideal.

“If you’re always striving for perfection, you’re unable to access things you can’t imagine,” Lee says. “Perfection is trying to achieve a vision in your head, but the work itself can start to reveal things that you never thought about. I’m just looking at what’s in front in me, but I couldn’t get to that point if I was striving for a perfectly constructed vase.”

Lee is in his 11th year as the resident art director of the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana, and has lectured extensively in North America and Asia. In March, 2013, he participated on the panel “Americans in the Porcelain City” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and was one of several artists invited to participate in New Blue and White, an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston that featured contemporary artists working in the blue-and-white tradition of ceramic production. In 2016, his work was featured as part of the Renwick Invitational at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.

Lee’s work is represented by the Duane Reed Gallery in St. Louis, Missouri; Ferrin Contemporary in North Adams, Massachusetts; and The Archie Bray Foundation Gallery in Helena, Montana.

"Moon Jar with Dinosaurs" | Porcelain, Glaze, Cobalt Inlay | 2017

"Vase with Peonies" | Porcelain, Glaze, Cobalt Inlay, Gold Luster | 2015