Exploring Identity and Emotions Through Art

Los Angeles-based artist and actor Joseph Lee has been making waves in the art world with his signature style of thick, colorful brushstrokes covering the features of his large-scale portraits. Lee’s journey as a visual artist began with a desire to practice technical skills, taking references and applying them to the canvas as realistically as possible. But his experience filming in Korea several years ago sparked a profound shift in his artistic style and approach. As someone of Korean descent who grew up in Indiana, Lee had always romanticized the idea of going back to his parents’ home country to learn about their culture. However, upon arriving in Korea, he faced the harsh reality of feeling disconnected from both his American and Korean identities.

This identity crisis fueled Lee’s evolution as an artist. His realistic portraits gave way to more abstract works that mirrored his internalization of his own identity. He began to strip away features from his portraits, creating a more symbolic representation of the emotional turmoil he was experiencing.

Lee’s work as an actor has also played a significant role in his development as a visual artist. Despite lacking formal training, he drew on his observation skills and tendencies he noticed in other characters to create his own style. Acting and painting serve as a psychological balancing act for Lee. Acting is a collaborative and humbling process, while painting allows him to be completely on his own, expressing himself without any external constraints.

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In his works Lee’s explores themes of identity, particularly as it relates to the experiences of Asian Americans. His portraits depict subjects with ambiguous and undefined features, encouraging the viewer to fill in the blanks with their own interpretations. The thick, textured brushstrokes add an element of physicality and depth to the works, making them a unique and compelling viewing experience in person.

Joseph Lee’s artistic journey is a testament to the power of exploring one’s identity through creative expression. His unique style and approach have captured the attention of art enthusiasts and collectors alike, and it will be exciting to see where his artistic explorations take him next.

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Photographize granted permission to feature photos by Joseph Lee


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