Art from the Oil Patch to be shown in Grand Forks

Susie J. Lee, a Seattle-based artist who works with video and sound installations and who grew up in Grand Forks, will open her solo show "Split Open" on Sunday at the North Dakota Museum of Art.

Susie J. Lee
An exhibit by Susie J. Lee that includes visual art from North Dakota's Oil Patch will open Sunday at North Dakota Museum of Art in Grand Forks.
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Susie J. Lee, a Seattle-based artist who works with video and sound installations and who grew up in Grand Forks, will open her solo show "Split Open" on Sunday at the North Dakota Museum of Art.

The exhibit will feature works ranging from her early digital career to some she has created in North Dakota's Oil Patch. Lee arrived March 23 in Grand Forks with her videographer and spent the next 10 days in western North Dakota. She then returned to UND to edit video.

Four real-time video portraits have been created for this exhibit, said a news release from the North Dakota Museum of Art, revealing the inner expressions of individuals working in the oil fields or in the towns.

Lee also has worked to capture the rhythms of transformation and the splitting of time into a two-channel, large-screen projection. Shown in conjunction with this work are installation and sculptural projection works from the past five years.

"I sense in this return to North Dakota, a cracking of my own myths and childhood narratives that had been left undisturbed for 20 years," Lee said in the news release. "With anticipation and curiosity, I come home as a witness to my hometown, sensitive to the things that change."


Lee is the daughter of Kap Lee, longtime director of the UND Center of Biomedical Research, and a graduate of Red River High School. At an early age, Susie Lee began to play the piano and became intrigued by the mechanics of the human hand. She started down the family path to medical school -- her father is a veterinarian and her sister is a doctor in the Seattle area -- and intended to become a hand surgeon.

Instead, she opted to pursue a Masters of Fine Arts degree after taking a ceramics course at the University of Washington. Her love of clay slowly began to give way to video and digital media.

Lee has made a name for herself in the art world. In 2009, the national Artnews magazine named her an "Artist to Watch." In 2010, she won a Stranger Genius Award for visual arts in an annual recognition given by the Seattle newspaper, The Stranger. Her art has been exhibited nationally and internationally.

In 2012, the Frye Art Museum of Seattle hosted her exhibit "Of Breath and Rain," and said of her: "Lee is a new-media sensualist who filters, quiets and distills technological noise in her work, creating spaces for viewers to experience intensely intimate encounters with her art."

Lee said her exhibit at North Dakota Museum of Art reflects her belief that there is a space between the person that left a place and the person who returns.

"The conceptual framework for this exhibition is the action of splitting, the continual cleaving of the past and present," she said. "North Dakota now has been thrust in the national spotlight for its oil extraction and imperviousness to the recent economic downturns. Splitting the shale means thousands of people left their homes and families to find good work and a new way of life. Roads crack under the weight of non-stop traffic. Environmentalists and politicians are divided on the stakes. Small towns stretch their resources maximally. Profits are divvied up. I wonder how longtime residents and new transplants define a sense of place and identity. Split something open, and things will change."

"Split Open" will be installed in conjunction with "Dancing, Dazzling Beads," a group exhibit of artists from across the U.S. and Canada who use techniques from the craft of beading to create works of art. The show was organized in-house by the NDMOA staff.

If you go


• What: Opening of "Split Open" exhibit by Susie J. Lee and "Dancing Dazzling Beads."

• When and where: 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, North Dakota Museum of Art, UND campus, Grand Forks. Exhibits run through May 26.

• Artist discussion: Susie J. Lee, 4 p.m. Sunday.

• Info:

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