A native of South Korea, Jiyong Lee started coming to The Studio in 1998 when he was a graduate student at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). “The first time I saw glass was in American craft magazines and art books from other countries. I was not familiar with studio glass art because there were no studio glass programs in Korea at that time,” says Lee.
While working toward his MFA in Glass and Glass Sculpture at RIT, Lee interned at The Studio. He quickly “became a part of the family,” says Amy Schwartz, director of The Studio. Lee used this opportunity to not only learn about glass, but also to help other students and to immerse himself in the glass community.
Upon graduation, Lee taught at RIT before moving on to head the glass program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where he is currently an Associate Professor. He also has been teaching his approach to cold working at The Studio since 2008.
For Lee, coldworking—the techniques of grinding, smoothing, laminating and carving annealed glass— means thinking about the optical aspects of glass. The cool, muted tones of his sculptures use the optical qualities of cold-worked glass to magnify the connection between science and art. His subtle but complex forms are geometric in shape and biological in approach. Inspired by the process of gel electrophoresis—a method used for the separation and analysis of macromolecules, such as DNA, RNA, and proteins—Lee meticulously cuts and carves glass into cellular sculptures.
One of those sculptures is part of the Museum’s collection. Cell Cube with Purple Manipulation is 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.”
Lee acts as a mentor to his students, both at The Studio and at Southern Illinois University. “I try to understand what my students’ interests are,” he says. “It’s a pleasure to see that my students are growing and getting out there and working as professionals in glass.”
Studio students are undoubtedly influenced by this energetic and driven instructor, but Lee also finds his exchange with students influences his own work. “I’m teaching as a professor now, but coming to The Studio is still a great learning experience,” says Lee. “Every time I come to Corning and work with other artists in my classes, I always take something back to my studio at home.”
Watch videos of Lee and other Studio instructors on the Museum’s YouTube channel.