Deanna Lee


My work stems from patterns and traces of growth and decay in the natural world and the built environment. At an early age I saw electron micrographs and lab specimens, and I am still engaged by abstracted images of nature. In addition to organic structures and patterns, I am inspired by non-Western art—particularly a wide range of Asian traditional art—as well as cartoons and urban graphics. I am invested in the hand-drawn line for its conveyance of individualism, imperfection, and frailty, and I see my use of line as a tenuous analogy to ink painting.

In earlier works (about 2006–2011), I employed intuitive, controlled doodling to create line clusters that grew in response to my initial and successive lines. The resulting masses of lines evoke organic forms like hair, muscles, and fungi; natural systems such as waves and wind currents; geological strata; and topographical maps.

In more recent works (from about 2012), I create linear schemes in response to a variety of sources, from traditional Asian art to wood-grain patterns and peeling wall paint. I developed this method by roughly tracing reproductions of scroll paintings—a casual, almost flippant adoption of the pedagogy of copying masterworks that echoes my personal distance from a Chinese heritage and tradition.

Like my Asian-art schemata, I consider my traces and rubbings of non-art sources like plywood and cracking walls as calligraphic gestures by some artistic predecessor. Here, I copy marks made by impersonal forces, not made by other artists—marks that record growth and time in wood and the residue of change and decay in ceilings, walls, and floors.

My site-specific drawing installations respond to aspects of a space that are unintentional, overlooked, or unnoticed.

I think of my work as some hand-drawn interpretations of the material evidence of time.