Wanting to return to school for a full-time commitment to her new field, and feeling "like I had a lot of catching up to do," Lee enrolled in Reed's five-year combined study program with the Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA). She will graduate with an exhibition and a written thesis about the process of her work this month with a B.A. in art from Reed and a B.F.A. from PNCA. |
Lee's thesis project incorporates aspects of her second defining moment at Reed, her "enlightening" study of Eastern art and culture. Finding herself "fascinated with the East" in Professor Tsao's course, Lee asked Tsao to help her find a way to study in China for the summer. Lee says that Tsao "is just one of those people who makes things happen." Tsao helped Lee obtain a grant from her alma mater, the China National Academy of Fine Arts, to research and create a web site celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Pan Tianshou, China's last classical ink painter. The Reed pair suspected the academy would support Lee's proposal as Pan Tianshou's son, Pan Gonkai, was the current director of the academy, and the Chinese government was seeking means to "memorialize" Pan Tianshou and his lost art of ink painting.
Pan Tianshou was director of the academy until the Cultural Revolution, and Lee is adamant that the government's current focus on Pan Tianshou is meant to spread the mastery of his art, not to atone for past persecution. Similarly, her web site is "not meant to be political," but rather, to fulfill its straightforward title: "An Introduction to the Art and Writings of Pan Tianshou," found at http://www.reed.edu/~leee/.
Lee's web site includes images of Pan Tianshou's original two-story tall paintings, as well as translations of the painting's inscriptions and excerpts from the artist on each of the pieces. The translations were provided by Lee's research partner, academy graduate student Chen Yong Yi. To Lee's knowledge, these are the only published English translations of Pan Tianshou's writings. One excerpt reveals Pan Tianshou's philosophy of art as a "struggle." Even the web site viewer can imagine this struggle when she sees Pan Tianshou's six-by-five-foot view of "The Plum and the Moon." Pan Tianshou used the word "struggle" to describe the attempt through finger painting to create an image with his hands that corresponded with the vision in his mind. In order to visualize his next stroke, Pan Tianshou would have to climb high enough on a ladder above his floor-covering piece to see it as a whole, only to rush back down again to administer the stroke of his aerial conception. Lee explains yet another struggle for the ink painter: "With a drawing or oil painting, the artist can build up layers to cover mistakes, but that first stroke with ink is going to show forever."