At 36 years old, artist Mire Lee has emerged as a compelling force in the art world, showcasing her work globally from the Venice Biennale to renowned art spaces like the New Museum, New York and the Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin. Lee's studies in electro-mechanical engineering converge with her artistic vision, giving rise to abstract kinetic sculptures that mimic the human body. 

In particular, her series, Carriers, delves into women's often harrowing experiences with reproductive health, drawing inspiration from Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, which highlights a need for women’s reproductive healthcare, reflecting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Gender Equality.

Photo of Mire Lee working in her studio by Melissa Schriek for The New York Times. Image courtesy of Tina Kim Gallery.

Mire Lee first unveiled Carriers, in her first solo exhibition at Tina Kim Gallery at Art Sonje, Korea, in 2020. The sculptures in the series, especially those representing women's gestating bodies, evoke a macabre beauty that reflects the challenges women face in the realm of reproductive health. 

Lee’s Carriers don’t look like healthy bodies, they are contorting, decaying, and yet at the same time, the fact that she’s hooked them up to a pump and machine rotors, allows the sculptures to convulse as if they’re alive. This horrifying depiction of a pregnant woman alludes to how a 2024 study by Lancet Global Health shows that more than a third of women experience lasting health problems after childbirth. These issues include pain during sexual intercourse (dyspareunia), low back pain, anal incontinence, urinary incontinence, anxiety, depression, perineal pain, fear of childbirth (tokophobia), and secondary infertility, issues that could easily imagine Lee’s decaying sculptures are facing.

Carriers by Mire Lee, on display at the Tina Kim Gallery in 2022. Image courtesy of the Asia Art Archive in America.

By delving into the intimate and often overlooked aspects of women's reproductive health, Lee's sculptures become a powerful narrative that highlights the need for societal acknowledgment and empowerment. The exhibition's exploration of bodily autonomy, struggles, and resilience serves as a poignant commentary on the ongoing quest for gender equality.

However, Lee's reference to vore, a fetish involving the desire to consume the object of one's affection, takes her work beyond a clear narrative. Carriers embrace uncompromising partiality, refusing to adhere to a single, identifiable form. This unique approach challenges viewers to confront the multifaceted nature of women's experiences, avoiding simplistic categorizations. It’s as if affirming that pregnant bodies can also be sexual bodies, which they are in real life, and yet is a fact not often discussed in society.

In creating these sculptures, Mire Lee contributes to the broader conversation on gender equality, urging a nuanced understanding of women's diverse roles and struggles.

Carriers by Mire Lee, on display at the Art Sonje Center. Image courtesy of Mire Lee’s website.

Lee's impact extends globally, with her inclusion in prestigious events like the Venice Biennale, the 2022 Busan Biennale, and the 58th Carnegie International. Her sculptures, often described as quasi-biomorphic "carriers," address universal themes, resonating with audiences across different cultures, as its representation of the human body is made through abstract forms. As Lee continues to explore the intersections of art, technology, and women's experiences, she remains a significant voice in the contemporary art scene.

Through a lens that intertwines engineering precision with emotional depth, Lee addresses a need for women’s reproductive health in a way that sparks contemplation and conversation. As her global influence grows, Mire Lee's work stands as a testament to the power of art to engage with societal issues and contribute meaningfully to the pursuit of a more equitable world.

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