Here I Am, Standing
work by Haerim Lee
Here I Am, Standing in front of the Strangers Home Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago’s Cabrini Green, remembering the stories surrounding Bill Walker’s mural All of Mankind (1972) that used to be here. On December 10th, 2015, the church’s new owner whitewashed the mural while a small group was in the midst of raising funds to preserve it. I have been conducting field trips here since 2017, and while doing so, I discovered someone scraped the whitewashed mural to see the imagery underneath. I also tried to see underneath but only found layers of paint skin peeling from the wall. This disappeared image marks an important oral history, a collective memory. It is a history that is polyvocal—in a way, it is authentic, genuine, and a shared story. Through my studio practice, I question how to preserve oral histories and how to create inclusive spaces through examining counter-narratives. I question the idea of visibility and invisibility—who gets honored and remembered in history and who gets forgotten.
Haerim Lee’s art stimulates dialogue with communities through painting, public murals, ceramics, artist books, and photography. Her practice is rooted in ethnographical research, and critiques institutionalized demarcations of power. Originally from S. Korea, a monoethnic country, she is interested in multi-racial dynamics, particularly in the South Side of Chicago where she is currently living—a neighborhood with diverse ethnicities from different backgrounds and cultural heritages. Living in this particular environment, as opposed to within a homogenous culture, helps her to learn the stories of her neighbors and to work alongside them to create localized learning spaces born from a shared vision.
Lee graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) with an MFA in Painting and Drawing and an MA in Visual and Critical Studies, and she was an instructor in Arts and Street Culture at SAIC. She has had solo shows at Parlour and Ramp (2021), Gallery Noone (2017), and Kasia Kay Art Project (2012) in Chicago, and Youngeun Museum of Contemporary Art (2012) in S. Korea. She has participated in group shows including Autoethnography (2021) at Heaven Gallery Chicago, Artists Run Chicago 2.0 (2020) at the Hyde Park Art Center, Young Eunji Keeps Memories: Consistently (2020) at Youngun Museum of Contemporary Art in S. Korea, Korean Eye: 2020 (2019), Out of Context (2019) at Chicago Artist Coalition, The Art of Being Dangerous (2018) at the Hyde Park Art Center, and The Body (2010) as a part of the Chicago Humanities Festival.
We acknowledge that in Milwaukee we live and work on traditional Potawatomi, Ho-Chunk, and Menominee homelands along the southwest shores of Michigami, part of North America’s largest system of freshwater lakes, where the Milwaukee, Menominee, and Kinnickinnic rivers meet and the people of Wisconsin’s sovereign Anishinaabe, Ho-Chunk, Menominee, Oneida, and Mohican nations remain present.
We further acknowledge the grave evil colonialism introduced to these lands through genocide as well as slavery, and also via racist and xenophobic beliefs, laws, and practices that continue to inflict harm upon Black, brown, and Indigenous lives. We honor those who have lived—and do live, now—at these intersections of identity and experience, and are committed to the active dismantling of white supremacy.
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