Jiyong Lee is an artist and educator who specializes in cold-working and kiln-forming glass processes. He was born and raised in South Korea, where he received a B.F.A. in Ceramics Design from Hong-ik University. Lee moved to the United States, and in 2001, he earned his M.F.A. from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in New York, where he subsequently taught for four years. An associate professor of art at Southern Illinois University (SIU), Lee has headed the glass program there since 2005. As a visiting artist, he has taught workshops throughout the United States and in Korea, France, Ireland, and Australia.
Lee’s subtle but complex forms are geometric in shape and organic in approach. He sees his work as a process of query and research. “My finished work can be compared to meditative note-taking based on my investigations,” Lee says. His sculptures are inspired by images of microscopic embryos and cells that he has gathered from a variety of sources, ranging from contemporary biology textbooks to early 20th-century illustrations by the German naturalist Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919).
Sculptures like Cell Cube are based on Lee’s “fascination with cell division and the journey of evolution that starts from a single cell, goes through a million divisions, and then becomes life.” Another recent series is based on his exposure to the process of gel electrophoresis—a method for the separation and analysis of macromolecules, such as DNA, RNA and proteins—in the microbiology lab at SIU. “The electrophoresis process is relatively simple,” Lee says, “yet the DNA experiment I saw was quite complex, and I found the images beautiful.”