Artist Feature – Jake Lee
“Raised outside of a military installation and early exposure to toy guns, plastic army men, and G.I. joes as a child, made the soldier an icon, a figure of idolization, playing war was a favorite childhood game. My works of art explore my young adult experiences in the military. I was a soldier at 17, raised by a mother and grandmother, transplanted into a hyper masculine world centered around killing and anger. A world that my mother and grandmother are never prouder to tell people that I belonged to.
In the work, lyrics from marching cadences are printed in repeated patterns, reflecting the mantras they become when they are recited every day. Phrases from military recruitment advertisements and campaigns are painted using a traditional Americana sign painting aesthetic. Screen and relief printed propaganda imagery in heightened, bedazzled camouflaged colors on Tyvek, wood, and tarpaulins become structures once imagined as a child, then experienced while training, in the field, or in a combat zone. Installations of sandbags and cut Tyvek camo netting are made into bunkers for protection, concealment, and surveillance but exposed through the use of garish color and overt images of patriotic propaganda.
Through the use of appropriated propaganda imagery, pop culture military references, war comics, and personal photographs, it is my intention to investigate the lust of heroism. Military icons in pop culture are used as a form of recruitment. I am actively exploring how masculine language is used to define the identity of the warrior, and supports how psychological manipulation, as experienced in the military, is used. My work illustrates a world dominated by toxic masculinity where killing is arousing, and the talk of killing is used as foreplay. A world where you bite your tongue if you disagree, because fitting into that environment for your survival is paramount to any personal moral beliefs you may hold.”
Jake Lee was born and raised in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. After high school, Jake served four years in the United States Army with with one tour to Iraq. After ending his term of service, Jake attended the University of Kentucky and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Arts with a concentration in printmaking. In addition, Jake holds a Master of Arts and a Master of Fine Arts in Printmaking from the University of Iowa. Currently, Jake is a Lecturer of Art, teaching Printmaking and Two-dimensional Design at Berea College in Kentucky. His artworks have been exhibited both nationally and internationally, most notably at the Northern Illinois University Art Museum, Anne Wright-Wilson Fine Art Gallery at Georgetown College in Kentucky, Art Link Gallery in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Wharepuck Art Gallery in Kerikeri, New Zealand, Inner Mongolia University in Hohhot, China, and the Awagami Paper Factory in Tokushima, Japan. In 2016, Jake was awarded a First-Place award in Speedball Art Products’ New Impressions Printmaking competition and has also been awarded the Leola Bergman Fellowship, Beall Fellowship, and the Mauricio Lasansky Memorial Scholarship from the University of Iowa. His works have been collected by the Georgetown College Museum of Art in Kentucky, Zuckerman Museum of Art at Kennesaw State University, and the Awagami Paper Factory in Tokushima, Japan. Jake is the former President of the University of Kentucky’s printmaking organization, Back Alley Press and Iowa Print Group at the University of Iowa as well as a member of the Veteran Artist Movement.