Born in Korea to liberal parents whose left-wing activities were looked upon with suspicion by the government, Lee Bul grew up near Seoul in the 1960s and 1970s in a house under constant surveillance. To help with family finances, her mother sold women’s hair ornaments made from sequins, which the young Lee would often help fabricate. The artist’s interest in decorative textiles and jewelry remains prevalent in her work today and provides the material basis for her investigation of traditional and commercial femininity as it is linked with her cultural experience.
This piece is part of a series of near life-sized bisected female torsos that are crafted entirely by hand from leather and velvet, bedecked with beads and sequins, and displayed in glass vitrines. The title refers to the solar plexus, the interwoven system of nerves found in the abdomen of the human body. Lee’s process and choice of materials refer to production methods conventionally associated with women’s labor, and explore notions surrounding the artificial (ornament) versus the organic (the body). Displayed in a pristine case, the object becomes both exotic specimen and treasured relic.