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Hmong Artist Explores "Becoming American"

May 11, 2018

By Amy Melin | MN Original Producer

Sieng Lee’s stunning site-specific art installations are inspired by his own refugee experience. Lee’s family came to the United States when he was just three years old. Throughout his childhood, Lee strived to find balance between the traditional Hmong culture he was immersed in at home and the American culture he experienced at school and with friends.

One of the things that grounded Lee during his childhood was making art. Lee recalls, “I became interested in art at a very young age. I think that art really has been that motivating force in my life. I remember coming home and I would just draw constantly. My mother would find pieces of paper with my drawings lying all over the living room. It was something that kept me calm, as a kid who was very uptight always very energetic and causing trouble.”

At the center of his most recent installation, “Becoming American,” Lee created a large-scale sculpture that combined traditional objects from his Hmong culture with familiar American objects. The work is a visual reflection of the sometimes tumultuous feelings Lee had growing up as an refugee in the United States. This most recent piece is an extension of work he began as an MFA student at MCAD. “Becoming American” appeared at the White Bear Center for the Arts in September of 2017.

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