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Dreamy elements and infinite possibilities

Interview with Maddy Lee (Newmoon)

1.      Please tell us something about your background and your art journey so far.

My name is Maddy Lee, and I am a 3D artist based in Chicago and South Korea.

I started my journey as an artist in painting & drawing and I switched my medium to 3D digital while I was continuing my BFA studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. After taking 3D courses in the college, I was immediately attracted to 3D digital field since I could create my own assets and environments. I love creating an environment full of dreamy elements and my artistic goal is to invite the audience to my dreamy world. I’ve earned Bachelors of Fine Arts in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2023 and since then, I’ve been exhibiting across Chicago, DC, Korea, and more.

2.      Describe what a normal day looks like as an artist.

When it comes to art making, I’m a bit impulsive. I do sometimes draw sketches before I start on a huge projects, but most of the times I go back to my idea notes and rely on keywords I’ve put down on the notes and images that comes up to my head. After I decide what to create, I start creating rough scene in Maya (3d program), then create 3d models in Maya and ZBrush in detail. When I fill up the environmental scene with models, I then bring those models to Adobe Substance Painter to create texture and color maps. When I’m done with 3d modeling and texturing, I control lightings and camera animation, then render the whole scene in Maya. After rendering the animation, I bring it to either Adobe Aftereffects or Premiere Pro to edit sound. Once I sit down in front of the computer, I focus pretty well, so I work on the project for 8-9 hours straight, non-stop. Sometimes I start at afternoon, sometimes I start at evening. It’s irregular. I don’t know why but I think I work the best during midnight. There’s something about midnight, because after 12am, I become more sentimental and emotional. Maybe because it’s quiet and dark outside. I love to pull up all the blinders and enjoy the night view when I’m working.


3.      Can you tell us more about the theme in your art and your inspiration?

The themes I mostly work with are Greek Mythology, fantasy, digital boundaries, and a dream journal I’ve been writing since 2015. I remember lots of dreams after I wake up, so I’ve been recording all the details I remember. My inspiration comes from lots of different features, such as Greek mythology, films, novels, my dream journal, and conversation I have with people around me. Most of my dreams consists of fantastical features (probably affected by lots of science fiction, action, and fantasy films I watch), and those elements inspire me to create artworks. The reason why I love Greek mythology is because there are infinite possibilities of how it could be interpreted based on what timeline we live in and based on individuals’ thoughts and backgrounds. Greek mythology contains lots of symbols and representations, and I think they represents the basic and primal traits of humans. I choose a God or a Goddess that represents certain human trait and put my own interpretation into it to create an artwork. For example, in my previous artworks, I chose Artemis and create a 3D animation about her since I wanted to recall the traits we all have in common as humans. And I wanted to raise the awareness of the importance of not forgetting about our ambitions and our desire to reach for the goal. I’ve also created an animation about Dionysus, who represents festivity, madness, wine, and more, to tell the audience about the importance of embracing those primal traits (human instincts) to emerge stronger.

4.      How does your art life impact other parts of your life?

When I create artwork, the process itself makes me reflect on my life and my journey as an artist. I not a professional of sharing my personal thoughts or issues whenever I’m struggling, so sometimes it was difficult for me to go through since I do not know how to put into words about my feelings. However, through creating artwork, I feel freer, and I was able to confront my feelings or memories.

5.      Could you share any difficulties and hardships you had to face in life and how or if you managed/overcame them?

While I was in US, far from my homeland (Korea), I had to face the death of my grandmother, who was a huge part of me. And I also had to face the death of one of my cats in Korea, who’ve been next to me since I was a kid. By facing multiple death of my loved ones, I went through a severe grief. However, by creating artworks dedicated to them, I was able to confront those incidents and I overcame them by keeping them forever in my heart. It’s still hard since the feelings linger.


6.      Tell us about your best experience in the art world so far.

Gratefully, I was granted with multiple opportunities to exhibit my works in Chicago and South Korea. It’s hard to put into words about how grateful I am to showcase my works to a broad range of audience. Every time I participate in a gallery exhibition, I love how people get curious about my works and wants to know more about me as an artist or more about the work I create.


7.      Is the artist life lonely? Please share your thoughts and experiences.

I did feel lonely when I graduated from college, since I did not exactly know how to continue my artistic journey all by myself. As a digital artist, I did not know about the ways to exhibit my works and I struggled a bit. But after participating in several galleries, it was very rewarding and after knowing there are people who are willing to support me and my artwork, I didn’t feel as lonely as much as before. I don’t know if I would feel differently in the future, but currently I still do feel a bit lonely, because whenever I work on a project just by myself, I have to plan, create, and promote by myself, and sometimes I get disappointed when the result does not meet my expectation level. However, I think it’s a process of me growing stronger and expanding my knowledge, experience, and skills as an artist, so I’m trying to enjoy these moments though it’s not always full of joy.

8  What are you working on at the moment and are there any upcoming events you would like to talk about?

I just finished creating my new 3D animation, titled ‘Drowning.’ It’s about the juxtaposition of grief and affection that often intertwine in the human heart. The idea started from the intricacies of the human experience, particularly for those navigating the balance of life in a foreign land. I’m participating in an exhibition ‘NEWBODIES/NOBODIES’ held in King Street Gallery at Montgomery College in Washington DC, and I’ll be participating in an artist talk event as well. It’s a cultural exchange/international synchronous group exhibition in conjunction with CICA Museum in South Korea. The exhibition goes from March 18 to April 19 in DC.



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