"Seexeng Lee's iconic art focusing on aspects of Hmong culture has made him one of the most widely renowned artists in the Hmong community and beyond"
The Blake School
The tunnel linking the Hopkins Lower School to the Middle School is undergoing a colorful transformation thanks to art teacher Seexeng Lee and a group of Blake student-artists. Look for more on this project in the months to come! (Video by Nadia Lee) [read more]
Post on: June 8, 2015 9:56:00 AM
Growing up as a child, art was the only way I knew how to conceive images and meanings. I naturally found peace when I physically produced visual images to each of my father's stories. With nothing but wooden sticks and a dirt floor as my canvas, my imagination went to work. My very first piece of art was an elephant. And from there as each story visually came alive in my imagination, so did the dirt canvas in my parent's hut. I knew then I wanted to be an artist.
When I came to the United States, I realized the best way to communicate was through art. I did everything from sketching what I wanted to say, but couldn't and drawing everything I wanted to do, but wouldn't. Art was my comfort. But that comfort soon turned into a problem for my parents. They never saw art as an acceptable career and thus never supported my passion. In the Hmong culture which values reputation, my parents wanted more for me. They wanted bigger and better things. Therefore, the only solution to please myself and my parents was to teach, to teach art.
In 1997 I graduated from Augsburg College in Minneapolis, MN with degrees from Studio Art and Secondary Education. I have been teaching art since then in the Minneapolis Public Schools district and currently teach at The Blake School. I have also had my art shown in many galleries across the Twin Cities, upper midwest as well as in Seattle Washington.
Many may say that living with the collision of two cultures is a burden, but I find it a blessing in disguise.
I believe my experience with living through many generations and seeing the blending of the two cultures, both Hmong and American, I have a very unique perspective of both worlds. Because I can understand and appreciate the older Hmong generation and the new young Hmong-American generation, I am able to convey a kind of art that speaks to both.
I find images or subjects that best represent the Hmong culture and combine it with the best visual art style in hopes of enlightening my viewers. The technique I chose to use was gold leafing. In my Hmong culture gold/silver/currency shows value. Therefore, I chose important symbols and aspects of the Hmong culture to illustrate and highlighted them with gold leaf to convey the idea that these things show value.
In my art pieces, the Qeej and the Ncas are two of many Hmong instruments. The Qeej is a mouth organ, similar to the bagpipe. Its size ranges from 2 to 6 feet long and 3-4 feet tall. It is made of brass blades, a wooden case with bamboo rods. Out of all Hmong instruments, the Qeej is the universal symbol representing the Hmong people because there are none like it. The Qeej has great significance because it is used during a funeral service to lead the soul of the deceased back to the ancestors.
The Ncas is a 6 inches mouth harp. It is made of a wooden case with a brass blade. It is played by vibrating next to the mouth while blowing air through the blade. It is mainly used for courtship among men and women.
My desire to find a way to artistically show valuable aspects in the Hmong culture has helped me to appreciate my culture even more. As each idea comes to me, I find that I am learning more and more about my roots. Furthermore, I find that I am wanting to learn more and wanting to preserve priceless and crucial elements of my culture. As I see the generations after me assimilate to the new American culture I wonder whether these symbols and aspects of the Hmong will hold true anymore. Thus, my art hopes to inspire younger Hmong generations and other cultures to be willing to learn and even appreciate what is left of our culture and hope that someday many years from now these instruments and concepts will still be valuable.
Thank you for supporting the arts.