Michael Aaron Lee

My work uses a largely appropriated iconography and humor to create imagery that questions the limits and logic of visual narrative.  This imagery is at once transcendent and absurd, pointing out the difficulty of parsing the miraculous from the merely irrational.  It measures my own ambivalence towards spirituality’s value in contemporary culture and attempts to critique past efforts at visualizing the metaphysical.

Through a combination of graphic form, stylized imagery, optically aggressive pattern, and a limited palette, I create purposefully inconclusive narrative cartoons. I employ a mixed bag of borrowed mid-twentieth century aesthetic conventions and combine them with spiritual symbols from much earlier eras.  Man-made and natural images are often used opposite one another to amplify their differences.  Symbols of inaccessibility and closed space such as dense forests, fences and walls are paired with others implying access and expanding space such as windows, clouds and smoke.  These elements are never particular but visually iconic and due to that iconic power can be modified to exhibit additional and conflicting meanings.

The work can be split into two groups:  drawings made with traditional materials that borrow visual conventions of the horror vacui tradition and painting—either mixed with collage or made on untraditional surfaces—that borrows from the 1960s Pop and Op art movements. Some imagery functions as scenery and props for the staging of events that have already occurred or will occur shortly.  Other images seemingly obstruct a viewer’s eyesight of the purported “real” subject of the picture.  The dematerialization, concealing, and unexpected revealing of forms in the pictures all become a metaphor not only for the supernatural but also the irony of attempting its comprehension through inadequate human means.