Kenyon College

Nikki S. Lee


Artist: Nikki S. Lee
Title of Work: The Ohio Project (6)
Dimension:30″ x 40″
Photo Line: Collection of the Artist
Collection Credit: © Courtesy of the artist & Sikkema Jenkins & Co.

In her series, The Ohio Project, photographer Nikki S. Lee transforms her appearance in an effort to place herself as a subject in her own photographs. Lee, born in South Korea in 1970, blends performance with photography in much of her work. Familiar territory in contemporary artistic practice; Lee’s work references artists like Cindy Sherman, to address ideas of gender and race in America. Lee’s own identity deeply informs her work. In interviews, Lee has directly referenced the importance of performing change in her work:

“Changing myself is a part of my identity. That’s never changed. I’m just playing with forms of changing. My work is really simple, actually. I wanted to make evidence…I always feel like I have a lot of different characters inside and I was curious to understand these things. I wanted to see some sort of evidence that I could be all those different things.”
–Nikki Lee,from an interview with Gilbert Vacario,
Curator of the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, 2001

The featured piece is the sixth image from The Ohio Project. Lee, with dyed blonde hair, reclines suggestively on a bright yellow low-rider, accompanied by a stereotypically dressed Midwestern man. By inserting herself in this image, Lee demands that we question the stereotypes that, sometimes unconsciously, govern our lives. The photograph itself bears a date on the lower right hand corner, a recognizable mark of the amateur camera. The familiarity of this time stamp stands in paradox with the artist’s unexpected presence. Together, they simultaneously complicate and distinguish this photograph within its Midwestern setting.

Natalie Karic ‘12 Gund Gallery Associate