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Nikki S. Lee

Korean, born 1970

The Hispanic Project (1), 1998

Chromogenic color print, edition AP 1/3
21 1/4 x 28 1/2 inches (54 x 72.4 cm)
Edmund Hayes Fund, 1999

In her “Projects” series, Nikki S. Lee adapted the costumes and customs of various American subcultures, immersing herself in their lifestyles. She was willing to change anything—hair, weight, clothing, skin color, behavior—to fit in. She told the group she was doing an art project, then worked to become accepted—a gradual process that could take weeks or even months. At first the photographs were taken by a friend who accompanied her; later she asked anyone available because she wanted them to have “the boring quality of snapshots.” To see only one Project will not convey Lee’s ideas adequately because, as she says, seeing the others brings out the special characteristics of each one.

The Projects, which are related to performance art, address issues of both social and cultural identity. As Lee once commented, “essentially life itself is a performance. When we change our clothes to alter our appearance, the real act is the transformation of our way of expression—the outward expression of our psyche.”

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