Haejung Lee

Artist Statement

Meeting people to create new relationships happens naturally and is also a necessity because humans cannot live alone. Looking at how children in general make friends and also how we made friends during our childhood years, we can see that children are completely happy to be friends for no particular reasons. Also children can keep their friendships with complete trust and pure happiness. However, as time goes by, having more social experiences limit us as an adult to build and keep relationships without considering the pros and cons.

In my case, my immigration in my late 20’s to America has affected my adjustment to life here, and had limited me with my interpersonal relationships. I had to learn to manage things all over again from the beginning just like a new born baby. For example, since I did not know anyone in America, I had to build up my interpersonal relationships from the very beginning. In addition, I had to not only understand the cultural differences between two cultures, but I also needed to get over the language barriers at the same time.

Being in America, I have found that I have had to consider three different obstacles to make and keep friendships. First, it was hard to maintain the relationship with my Korean friends who I have known for a long time since I live so far away. Second, I was afraid of building friendships with Americans because I did not have the confidence to recognize their sincerity. I usually have felt isolated by groups of people because of this and it wasn’t easy to continue to keep the relationships. Lastly, creating interaction with Korean-born immigrants to America who are in the similar situation as me wasn’t easy because of my interracial marriage even though we are able to share the common cultural experiences. Expressing the limitations of creating and maintaining interpersonal relationships in my life was a big inspiration for this work. Since Korea and America have a different language and culture, these factors are a huge disadvantage when developing relationships. Korean culture in particular is highly influenced by Buddhist principals. One basic Buddhist idea is that people will reconnect in their current life if they had met so many times in their previous life. So, considering this idea, creating and keeping relationships are important to me bearing in mind that we are all connected. I want to represent my thought of interpersonal relationships and my limitations through my pieces both now and in the future. It seems like it is a right time to reflect on what true friends I have had before, what true friends I have now, and what true friends I have to come in the future.


Haejung Lee was born in Seoul, Republic of Korea and currently lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in America with her husband, Daniel Engle. She grew up in Seoul with her parents, an older sister and a younger brother. She started to work with clay as a material since her undergrad year. It’s been already 18years. Her work had been developing from functional objects to installation work.

She received BFA and the first MFA in ceramics at Kyung Hee University in South Korea, and a second MFA in ceramics at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She has been an Artist-in-residence in Canada, Denmark, Taiwan and the United States. Moreover, She has internationally had numerous solo and group exhibitions and has been awarded several remarkable prizes and fellowships such as NCECA 2011 Emerging artist, Best of show at Art Melt 2008, the Lormina Salter Fellowship in 2009 from Baltimore Clayworks, a juried solo show at Taipei County Yingge Ceramics Museum in Taipei, Taiwan 2012 and a McKnight residence artist grant for 2013 from Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

She was invited to the 5th World Ceramic Biannual Show in Korea in 2009 and directed shows which invited many great American ceramic artists at Icheon World Ceramic Center, Korea and for 2013 NCECA CIE to invite contemporary Korean ceramic Artist to America.

For 2014, she is selected one of five Project Space Artists at NCECA Milwaukee, Wisconsin and invited to Missouri State University for her 11th solo exhibition besides some group shows.