by Marissa Maier
The alchemy of becoming a successful artist is often said to be a mixture of talent and ambition. Evan Yee, a painter and sculptor, as well as a 20-year-old undergraduate at Pratt Institute of Design in New York City, appears to have both attributes in spades.
Take for example, the story of how Yee came to have an exhibition at GalleryB in Sag Harbor, “Catharsis,” which opens today.
Tim O’Brien, owner of GalleryB in Sag Harbor, first met Yee at Tutto Il Giorno, over the summer. Yee worked as a bus boy at the restaurant.
One day while walking in Sag Harbor, O’Brien recalled hearing someone shout out his name and turned around to find Yee.
“He came up to me in a shy way and said, ‘You’re GalleryB, aren’t you?’ and I said, ‘Well I’m Tim but yes I’m GalleryB,’” O’Brien recounted in an interview. “He said, ‘Well I am an artist. I am still in school and I was wondering if you might be willing to look at some of my work.’”
A few days later O’Brien received an email from the young man and was stunned by what he found.
“I was blown away by the quality, the sophistication and intensity of his work. What captured me was the clarity of expression and the consistency, which is rare in someone so young,” O’Brien remarked. “[To show work] it is equally important to like the person. I have to want to collect their work myself. That has always been the way I have shown work. I really have to like the artist.”
While many artists celebrate their gallery debut after graduation, Yee appears to be fast tracking his career. In 2009, he showed his work at the Piedmont Yoga Studio in Oakland, California, and won the Congressional Art Competition in his congressional district in the same state.
Yee’s first foray into the art world was in middle school, when he became enamored with graffiti. He explored stencil making and screen printing, before moving onto drawing in high school. It wasn’t until he attended a summer program at the Art Institute of Colorado that Yee dared to dabble in painting.
“I was a little scared to paint because I had never tried it before,” Yee recalled. He eventually found a passion for this often-challenging medium and has continued to work on it while studying sculpture in college and during his free time spent in Sag Harbor, where his father is based.
For Yee, his work and artistic process is an experiment. He explains that when he first started painting he focused on crafting photo realistic pieces. In “Catharsis” and “The Arsenal,” sepia-toned depictions of male youths, his work is precise and gives the illusion of a photograph. With the trio “Pain,” “Passion” and “Power,” Yee’s monotoned hands, which have been spray painted onto nearly three foot canvases, are more abstract and incorporate found objects. The evolution of his vision is neatly exhibited in his collection of 13 pieces at GalleryB.
As Yee continues to explore his voice through various media, the thrust of his work remains the same.
“Paintings from past years to the present have been, for my purposes, centered on emotional self-discovery,” Yee wrote in his artist’s statement. “I want to unearth catharsis in its purest form.”
Yee explained in an interview that through the years art has served as his vehicle for emotional excavation.
“To me all this work is sort of me defining catharsis step-by-step for myself,” he noted. “I had an emotional few years of high school as did my cousin. We are best friends and I used her as a subject for my piece. It was important to make a memory of that, the bond and our shared experience. I tried to describe the way she was feeling at the time to help define how I was feeling.”
Evan Yee’s “Catharsis” is on display at GalleryB, 150 Main Street, Sag Harbor, from October 28 to November 15. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, October 30, from 3 to 5 p.m. For more information call 725-1059.