Helen Lee

Pillow Book, 2015
Etched glass
Purchase, Acquisition Fund

Helen Lee’s art often tackles questions about language and translation. In this work, created in response to her mother’s death, Lee carefully engraved sheets of glass with text describing dreams her friends had about her. She filled each glass sheet with enamel, then fired them together into a block, like pages in a book. As each sheet of text obscures the next, the writing becomes largely illegible, sealed and hidden forever. The writing, only decipherable in fragments, remains just out of reach, like vivid but fleeting dreams.

Lee’s sculpture takes the form of a traditional Chinese ceramic pillow, which recalls both restful sleep and death. Even as she was feeling isolated and unmoored, mourning her mother’s passing, Lee’s friends were thinking and dreaming about her. In this sculpture, Lee gathered together the remnants of those connections and bound them into a pillow that evokes rest, comfort, and a sense of calm.