Delicate, colorful paper sculptures dangle from the wall above the meteor-like, porous objects displayed below. In contrast to their cosmic appearance, Huey Hyuk Lee sources these otherworldly objects from within. He calls these abstract sculptural works “journaling pieces”. Each sculpture is built of words from an entry from his daily journal– the result is a permanent embodiment of a singular emotion of a moment.

    Like his finished pieces, Huey considers himself to be fragile. His creative process continues with introspection and self-learning, as well as coping with deep emotions. If his work wasn’t fueled by his lived experiences and raw honesty, Huey believes it would feel empty. “I try to be honest to myself. I think that the key to how I make my work is being honest, and then I try to understand who am I, and then my identity, and then why I do ceramics.”

    He is earning his second MFA this spring, after studying ceramics at both the undergraduate and graduate level in his home country of Korea. It was hard for Huey to adjust to his new environment after moving away from Korea, especially because of the language barrier. He says his real home is in the studio with his art, and he lets his art guide him through his journey. “So many things are different, but at least I can talk around the studio. That’s okay. I can just rely on the clay.”

    Although his specialty is ceramics, UGA pushed him to take a class in printmaking. He found similarities between these forms, finding both to require a lot of psychological labor. Huey applies the three-dimensional aspect of ceramics to his printmaking, creating paper sculptures out of his cut-up completed prints, giving Huey more artistic freedom than if they were on a two-dimensional surface.
    Huey’s cartoon-like illustrations distinguish his unique style, found both in the prints and the ceramics. “I’m really interested in, like, who am I? What things live around me?” To answer these questions, Huey uses his dreams, culture, and everyday surroundings like his roommate's dog, Lulu, as subjects in his work, giving them his artistic fingerprint. His narrative illustrations feature scribbly angels, demons, doodles of Jesus, Buddha, the devil, and a reoccurring figure in a beanie that he explained was a self-portrait. Using these characters from his past and present, Huey physically manifests his imagination.

    The tedious, tactile, time-consuming process of clay sculpture is what drew Huey into ceramics. “I need the time to release my emotion. Once I have that emotion, I have to work with the clay and try to reveal how I feel. Sometimes I tear it apart. Sometimes I squeeze it, or cut it. Clay is a medium where you can directly make marks, or feel the touch. Once you punch it, clay likely has no damage, right? No other medium has that uniqueness. I can just rely on the clay.”

    After an incredibly prolific three years, Huey’s time at UGA begins to draw to a close. “It is the right time to play in Athens, Georgia. This is my comfort zone, I need a new environment. I feel a little bittersweet to leave this really great, amazing program.”  Huey finds he will be at home with his art wherever he settles, even if it’s in multiple locations. “One of my mentors living in Korea was also an American citizen. He has a studio in China, Korea, and even America; in California. He's my hero for that. That's something I think that's ideal for artists. I want to have several studios in different places.”

    Our conversation with Huey ended with asking our favorite question: if Huey was to be a bug sitting on a fruit, which bug and fruit would he choose? Huey laughed and answered, “I was watching YouTube last night. So this tech guy asks, ‘What if we have Apple-sized blueberries?’ I would want to be a worm on an apple-sized blueberry. The worm is gonna be really happy about it. The reason why I really like blueberries is because my old mentor had a farm. He found out he got free blueberry trees. So me and the other assistants have to carry f*cking huge trees from this truck. We dug up the ground all day, and night. It took two entire days. Two months later, we had a lot of blueberries! We made a lot of blueberry jam and pie. I would be a very happy, purple worm on an apple-sized blueberry.”


Huey’s work can be found at www.hueyleearts.com/