At the end of 2022, the artist traveled to Alto Hospicio, Tarapacá, Chile, the driest desert on the planet and home to one of the world’s largest dumping grounds for unwanted and unsold clothing. Each year, approximately 39,000 tons of clothing are shipped here from all around the world: fast fashion pollution is a toxic byproduct of online shopping and the algorithms that influence global consumption. Lee returned from Chile with two suitcases packed with garments she dug up from the desert sand, upcycling these into works for her show. Displayed on a rack cobbled together from bamboo poles and twine, various outfits have been assembled from Lee’s sun-stained finds, accessorized with handmade buttons and rhinestones, silkscreen and other alterations. While vintage clothing becomes increasingly rare and unaffordable, the artist makes a long journey to reclaim the rarest, most unwanted garments, digging up fresh looks for 2023.
Welcome to My Depop Store, 2023, is a video shot in Alto Hospicio, Chile. Here we see the artist hunting for clothing in red mountains of sand, improvising what looks like a makeshift pop-up shop, and playing a slide whistle. Lee could be performing the allegorical figure of the “rag picker” from Baudelaire’s poem: a metaphor for the poetic process itself, or the one who generates value from ruins and refuse.
A series of 2022 works on canvas combine paint, gift wrapping paper, glitter, tape, stick-on letters, photocopies, tinsel, feathers and Polaroid images. Emily Ratajkowski, Sydney Sweeney and other models grace Lee’s freeform painting-like assemblages, works she originally produced as a Special Project for Miu Miu’s Fall-Winter 2022 campaign.