Bovey Lee

Bovey Lee
Born 1969 BirthHong Kong.
Lives and works in HomePittsburgh, PA, United States.

Artist Statement:

My paper cutout drawings seek to contemporize an ancient Chinese folk art, paper cutouts. Once practiced by generations of village women, rapid modernization and urbanization in China threatens the development and future of the art form.

To preserve and extend this incredible artistry, I replace the familiar subject matters in traditional paper cutouts, such as folklore or celestial animals, with a blend of images drawing from my background and training in Asian, European, and American cultures and arts. Rich in cross-cultural references, my works depict personal narratives, current affairs, politics, assimilation, and gender issues. Whether the images appear allegorical, whimsical, poetic, personal, or political, duality and tension override within these fictional scenes of internal psychodramas and the filigrees of their delicate beauty. 

In forming the images, I gather ideas and create custom patterns, symbols, and motifs from the Internet, books, magazines, television, vintage photographs, and my own digital illustrations. As well, I employ both Eastern and Western compositional approaches, including bilateral symmetry, multiple perspective system, extreme form reduction, exaggeration, symbolic figuration, modular pattern, and decorative design.

My creative process is both spontaneous and meticulous. To balance the extremely laborious and precise hand cutting process, I compose the images with a level of automatism and free association. Typically, I create digital templates before hand cutting the images on rice paper. Using an X-Acto knife, I glide the tip of the blade on rice paper like a brush, a method coming from my calligraphy and painting background. Although the hand cutting process demands from me extreme concentration and fastidiousness, it is also at once immensely gratifying and spiritual.

To draw focus on the images, calligraphic lines, and contrast of the positive and negative space, I do not apply color to further embellish the work. Light play and shadow are integral to the overall impact of an image, adding depth to the two-dimensional picture plane.

Like each impossibly thin strip of paper that connects to sustain a bigger picture, paper cutout drawings allow integration of my disparate life experiences and art training, elapsing geographies, cultures, and time. They present to me a reservoir of ideas and tools in finding a clear, lasting, and independent voice that moves forward from past to present to future.


Bovey Lee works with and combines drawing, painting, digital media, and most recently paper cutting.

Lee has exhibited her works nationally and internationally, including at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, NY; Asian American Arts Center, NY; Kennedy Museum of American Art, Athens, Ohio; University of California at Santa Barbara, CA; Museum of Fine Arts, Beijing, China; Fukuoka Museum of Art, Fukuoka, Japan; Grotto Fine Art Gallery, Hong Kong, and many others. Her works are represented in the permanent collection of the Hong Kong Museum of Art and in private collections.

In 2007, Lee is a nominee of the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award and was named Mid Career Artist of the Asian American Arts Center in New York. For public grants, she has received funding from the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Previous awards also include Jack K. and Gertrude Murphy Fine Arts Fellowship from the San Francisco Foundation, CA and Urban Council Fine Arts Award, Hong Kong.

Bovey Lee’s works are included in Exploring Color Photography (McGraw-Hill, 2004), Exploring Motion Graphics (Thomson Delmar Learning, 2007), and numerous exhibition catalogues. Her biographical achievements have been selected for inclusion in Marquis’s Who’s Who in America (2008).