Los Angeles Artist Yeon Joo Lee Rediscovers the Joy of Painting

Los Angeles Artist Yeon Joo Lee Rediscovers the Joy of Painting

Yeon Joo Lee longed to return to painting for decades after her childhood aspirations to become an artist were curtailed. When she'd raised two sons and encouraged them to pursue their dreams, they urged her to do the same. Her vivid botanical paintings, inspired by plants in her garden, show the richness of her imagination and resonate with hope. Instead of painting the world around her, Lee creates utopian views of the world she would like to see in the future.

Not Real Art Artist Of The Day Series

Lee’s magical images of cacti and trees in Oz-like colors have a sense of wonder and escape. The contrast between the thriving natural environments she creates on canvas, and her often ‘spotty results’ raising plants in her drought-ridden backyard, increases the tension between reality and fiction. While not intended to make an ecological statement, Lee’s paintings of an idyllic natural world address the ongoing battle between man and nature, and provide solace from painful episodes in her past.

I paint not what I've felt before, but what I want to see in the future; there was enough pain before that I do not wish to revisit. Perhaps such mindset is, in its own way, democratic. Everyone equally desires to see a positive future and everyone wishes to leave their own difficult situation in order for a better life. No matter how successful an individual is, there will always be something that is in the way between that individual and a "perfect life."

Lee’s references to personal struggles give her work a transcendent luminosity that comes from returning to the canvas later in life. Her ability to reflect on past experience, and transform it into something vital and alive, illustrates her creative and emotional resilience while enhancing the surreal quality of her work.

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Yeon Joo Lee — Artist Statement

Yeon Joo Lee Headshot
Yeon Joo Lee

My art comes from what I treasure every day. The Camellia petals that fall onto the ground blooms as if there is a firefly glowing on each petal with a gentle frost. Every morning, I am greeted with the luminescent magenta accompanied by the evergreen Cyprus trees as I tend my garden.

The cotton flowers present their effervescent and elegant body to the sun, promising warmth amidst the rain of pink and purple.

My garden has a rather large variety of plants with an exception to cacti. Each and every cactus lies to me, pretending that there is a lack of water by looking dry. I fall for their lies every time and end up giving too much water, which unfortunately causes them to fade. Thus, I plant them on the canvas and they’ve never been healthier.

Yeon Joo Lee – Grant Submission Work

Yeon Soo Lee. Camellia
Acrylic painting
30 x 40 inches
Yeon Joo Lee. Cactus Splendor
Cactus Splendor
Acrylic painting
40 x 30 inches
Yeon Soo Lee. Whistle
Acrylic painting
40 x 30 inches

Yeon Joo Lee – Artist Bio

My name is Yeon Joo Lee. For the first time in 35 years, I held a paint brush and I finished a painting on a canvas. My dreams of becoming an artist were cut short from the age of 10 due to financial and family reasons. Ever since then, the thought alone of holding a brush pained my soul and so I deterred myself away from art as a whole. The emotions that have accumulated throughout these years made me understand that I should encourage my two sons to chase their dreams no matter what. One day, my older son asked me a simple question: “Mom, what is your dream?” I responded back, “It WAS to be an artist. I’m not sure if it still can be my dream.”

That night, my older son bought me a new canvas, my younger son bought me a new easel, and my husband bought me an assortment of paint brushes and paint. It was one of the best nights in my life and it excites me to no end to know that I still have decades before my eyes grow weary.

I have no mentors and no education in art. I have no professional experience thus no biography. But, I’m excited to become the artist that I’ve always wanted to be.

Yeon Joo Lee on the Web And Social Media

Here is where to find out more about Yeon Joo Lee on the web and social media:

  • Currently unavailable. Stay on the lookout for further glimpses of Yeon Joo Lee as her career evolves!

About the Artist of the Day Series

All artworks have been published with permission of the artist. Our "Artist of the Day" series is a regular feature highlighting artworks from the 100's of grant applications we receive. The "Not Real Art Grant" is an annual award designed to empower the careers of contemporary artists, and this is one way we honor all entries we receive. Find out more about the grant program here.

Kirsten Bengtson-Lykoudis

Kirsten Bengtson-Lykoudis is a writer, photographer, and former New York gallerist based in Richmond, Virginia. She has a masters in fine art, a BA in Russian literature, and is earning a masters in nonfiction writing at Johns Hopkins University, AAP.