University Art Museum
Well/Being: An Exhibition on Healing and Repair
August 4 - December 11, 2021
Artists, Installation Views, Public Programs, About

Michelle Young Lee

Neon sign of a hand with painted nails holding a red rose
Michelle Young Lee, I am the Signal; You are the Wave, 2021, neon, glass tubes, generator box, generator wire, bulb supports, 72 x 25 inches, courtesy of the artist [image description: Neon sign of a hand with painted nails holding a red rose.]

With imagery drawn from the window neon of Asian American shops, Michelle Young Lee’s commissioned neon works serve as a memorial to the six Asian women killed in three Atlanta spas in March 2021. They are a protest against white supremacist violence and femicide, as well as the larger history in the U.S. of anti-Asian violence, which has escalated during the Covid-19 pandemic. Reflecting on the invisible and exploited nature of caring for the human body within nail salon and spa work, Lee revisits and recontextualizes these iconic shop sign symbols to suggest multiple meanings and active retorts. The neon hand holding a rose is a familiar nail salon symbol—here the hand oscillates between proffering the flower and a raised solidarity fist. Similarly, a beckoning cat, usually a symbol of fortune and luck, defiantly extends a middle finger. The neon “Thank You” on the ubiquitous red-and-white plastic bag resonates with bitter irony.

Michelle Young Lee

Born in 1981 in Los Angeles, California. Lives in Southington, Connecticut and works in both Southington, Connecticut and New York, New York.

Selected solo exhibitions include La Compass du Nuit/La Nuit du Compass at 80 WSE Gallery in New York, New York (2012); Dissolve at Gallery Space at Wagner in New York, New York (2012); and Dissolve: In-Form, De-Form, Per-Form at Boda Center of Visual Arts in Seoul, South Korea (2009).

Selected group exhibitions include Anti-Bodies at MoMA PS1 in New York, New York (2018); Transporter at Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles, California (2017); SENSE: Art in Odd Places on 14th Street in New York, New York (2017); Castles Made of Sand: A Pollination of the 2016 London Biennale: Synchronisation/Syncopation at Lyeberry HQ in Brooklyn, New York (2016); Hearing Landscapes Critically at Sound Art Conference, Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts (2015).

Lee received a B.F.A. from California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California in 2006 and an M.F.A. from New York University in New York, New York in 2013.