AMES, Iowa — Youeun Lee, an Iowa State University graduate student in integrated visual arts, will share digital paintings exploring Korean culture in her master of fine arts thesis exhibition April 6­–15 at the ISU College of Design.

“Cultural Storytelling” will be open from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. weekdays in the College of Design’s Gallery 181. A closing reception will be from 5–8 p.m. Friday, April 15.

In her graduate studies at Iowa State, Lee, from Seoul, South Korea, has focused on defining “culture” more broadly and examining the ways culture influences art.

“As I meet [diverse people] and talk with them about culture, a question comes up in my mind: What is Korean culture?” Lee said. “My works, about 22 digital paintings, will visualize the answer and will suggest the possibility of Korean culture as mass media content through character and scene designs.”

Many of Lee’s paintings portray new characters she has created based on Korean folktales and traditions. For example, one is inspired by Tal masks from the Goryeo Dynasty that were thought to hold god-like spirits. Drawing from these spirits’ characteristics, the old social classes they represent and traditional Korean illustration styles, Lee designed characters who might live inside the Tal masks, as well as the monsters and environments in their stories, she said.

Her work also explores “invisible culture” expressed through socially conscious art.

About the artist

Lee received a bachelor of architecture from Iowa State in 2018 and completed an architecture internship with CHOHELO A+U in Seoul. She returned to Iowa State in 2019 to pursue her master’s degree in integrated visual arts. During her graduate study, Lee has been a teaching assistant for courses in art history, design in context and creative visual thinking. She will graduate with her MFA from Iowa State in May.


Youeun Lee, Integrated Visual Arts graduate student, youeunl@iastate.edu
Barbara Walton, Department of Art and Visual Culture director of graduate education, bewalton@iastate.edu
Heather Sauer, College of Design communications director, 515-294-9289, hsauer@iastate.edu