Category Archives: **Work

Mirena Rhee – drawings, paintings and other work

Tokyo walks

Tokyo walks.

Music – ( Public Domain recording ) Ride of the Valkyries performed by The University of Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Barbara Schubert:


I created Tokyo walks for my some kind of street series, for the some kind of project. Tokyo and Japan in general have never been a tourist destination but rather an obsession I have had to pursue. It is only appropriate that I picked the Ride of the Valkyries for this piece as my experiences during my solo trip to  Tokyo and Kyoto were pure ecstasy and until this day I cannot unravel this feeling into anything that makes sense, on any rational level. I simply have the hots for Japan.

Every cake I ate, every fist of rice, every foot I planted on the pavement felt emotionally charged and even today I feel as much charged about my experiences as I was the moment I dropped into Narita airport.

The note in my diary reads:

My plane ride to Tokyo was a bit like a train ride on a train with square wheels.
I was flying from nearby Korea and despite the fact that the ride was fairly short – I was crazily afraid of flying, I still am afraid of flying and every flight I take is a rigorous test of my character.

Yet, the most exciting parts of my life have and are starting with a plane ride. After the rocky introduction to Japan I entered into an immigration procedure in a room with a sign that read:


Since I was fairly amused I wasn’t feeling bad anymore, neither too aged or pregnant, and proceeded without trying the Priority lane, into what I eagerly awaited to get into – Japan.


A dreamlike drawing produced in a dreamlike manner.

Dreams, 31 x 32 inches, dip pen and ink on hot pressed board

The purpose of this drawing was to implement a new language and the way it worked was that it developed into a language as it went. Never knew what a particular detail would look like until the very moment it was done. It was like a play with no script where I was the only audience.

Tiny changes happened along the way, and the world of the drawing changed incrementally.

By the time the drawing was fished – it had evolved into a dream tapestry that would draw you in just like a rabbit hole.

More on the happening of works here:

Winter wearable artwork

Winter is a wearable artwork based on a frame form Winter Diagrams: December,  animated pen and ink drawings.

This whole struggle with paintings that look like dresses comes from a single well – I have  always pushed the third dimension in my drawings and this comes directly from being a 3d artist for so long.  My brain has been completely rewired to think three-dimensionally.  I can’t imagine a satisfactory flat plane and there is this anxiety to twist it in another direction.

The thirst for dimension pushed me to animate the drawings, and, in turn, to take the animated drawings in yet another dimension with the wearable work. The wearability comes from sensory seeking, craving tactile things, feeling the work with the whole body, literally occupying the work.

Winter wearable artwork by Mirena Rhee
Winter wearable artwork

New Installations and Performance Art site –

Mirena Rhee's  Xquisite Corpse Act Two - Installation and Performance Art
Xquisite Corpse Act Two before the public entered the studio

Xquisite Corpse is an ongoing project, a series of Installations and Performance Art pieces with open public participation. I began Xquisite Corpse in 2010  as a continuation to a series of earlier works I created with a  group of artists called Absurdas.

The Xquisite Corpse work is about the body, the body as a landscape, and whatever surrounds the body, also as a landscape.

Xquisite Corpse doesn’t have an audience or a script, no money change hands, no models, no artists, no plan of what is going to happen, because anyone that stepped into the work played their own script, became the artists, the models, the canvas, the audience of their own painting.

Figment Installation and Performance
Mirena Rhee's Xquisite Corpse Act Two - Installation and Performance Art
Xquisite Corpse Act Two
Mirena Rhee's Xquisite Corpse Act Two - Installation and Performance Art
Act Two – into the night
Mirena Rhee's Xquisite Corpse Act Two - Installation and Performance Art
Our most Xquisite Corpse was Gymnos Alitheia
Mirena Rhee's  Xquisite Corpse Act Two - Installation and Performance Art - The Runway
Gymnos Alitheia disappeared into the Runway
Mirena Rhee's Xquisite Corpse Act Two - Installation and Perfromance Art. The Morning After.
Xquisite Corpse Act Two – Installation and Perfromance Art. The Morning After.

Happy Thanksgiving

Wish everyone a Very Happy Thanksgiving.

Europe is cold and feels even colder after I spent considerable amount of time in Florida and California over the last couple of years. But as in New York, cold always stimulates the mind as there is no urge to be outside and move about.

Here are two pieces I did over Thanksgiving three years ago. For the first one I used the back of a  Nordstrom catalog I got in the mail:


i have everything - i piece on the back of a Nordstrom catalog
Drop everything and shop, 11×19 inches, sharpies on the back of a Nordstrom catalog


Another piece with a Thanksgiving theme is called I have everything. It is a digital collage over a photograph of me wearing a paper dress .The other strong theme here is Occupy and the effect the movement had on me and the way I viewed New York city. I have everything was completed shortly after NYPD cleared Zuccotti Park.


I have everything digital collage
I have everything, digital collage on top of a photograph of me wearing a paper dress


The paper dress I am wearing is a 30 x 40 inches mixed media piece. I painted over a  Giclee print of my Lucasfilm W2 and scraps of paper collage:


30x40 inches printed photograph I turned into a paper dress
I have everything paper dress, 30×40 inches, mixed media over Giclee print

You can listen to the voice piece about I have everything here:

The Flying Tree

I drew the Flying Tree during my failed attempt to go to Tibet, Nepal and Mt Everest Base Camp. I had already obtained Chinese visa, bought anti-diarrhea drugs,  waterproof rainwear and wool underwear, arranged for a sidecar trip around Beijing, a trip on the train to Lhasa and a 4 wheel drive across the Tibetan Plateau.

Couple of days before the trip the results from my physical exam blood work came in and it turned out I was severely anemic. My doctor recommended I do not go on the trip as it involved high altitude -I panicked and never went. I spent a couple of days crying.


I closed the doors to my studio and drew for three weeks straight, all my dreams flowed out,  into and with the ink.  Flying Tree was one of the drawings I completed during that time.

Flying Tree, 15×20 inches, pen and ink on paper, 2009

I dedicated the Flying Tree to my late grandfather Spas who passed away September 28th, on the day I was supposed to hang the Tree in a gallery in downtown San Francisco. He was just like the Old Man and The Sea, he made fish cakes and raspberry wine, he grew large tomatoes. All my friends and my brother’s friends came to see him at his house on the Black Sea. He used to say a Macedonian soldier never turns back – just 180 and forward.


Eventually I learned that in Hindu religion, in the beginning mountains had wings.. they were cut off by thunderbolt. The Flying Tree was the foothills of my Govardhan, the imaginary mountain I needed to climb instead, perhaps to ascend mentally first before taking my body there. Ultimately, I gifted the “Flying Tree” to an anti-cancer benefit a former colleague of mine organized at Pixar.

Rome is not exciting the way Las Vegas is exciting

As part of my some kind of series I am creating short videos using photographs I shot. They sound and look like the mood of the moment I took the photograph.

Going to Rome was one of the most exciting experiences in my life. Rome is not exciting the way Las Vegas is exciting. I went to Rome on Christmas and after spending Christmas eve waiting for the Pope to come out and give us a blessing, after spending the whole night in front of St Peter’s, walking across the dark city, all the way from St Peters to my hotel.. I slept through all of Christmas day and woke up in the evening to find out Rome was completely empty. There was nobody outside. Everyone was either at home, out of town or held up in their hotel room waiting for a dry morning.

There was nobody on the streets of Rome, it was raining, little bit, on and off. I went to see the Colosseum. It was the most serene and peaceful place to be. With the Colosseum raising out of the darkness with its 2000 years of existence. Colored in yellow and blue. I would end up not visiting it during the day.

Isabey sent me a replacement brush – I am a fan for life

I get attached to the materials I work with – I have been a life-long computer geek, a brush geek, a linen geek, a paper geek. After all, for a time – you and the instrument in your hand become a one in the pursuit of a work of art, or simply of work. Knowing what we now know of the micro-world of particles, the simple act of commanding an object is a miracle.

“Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.”

Happy Birthday, Voltaire !

Here is my little dance to the tune of a Bulgarian folk song – I am preparing several canvases the traditional way. I stretch my own raw linen, size it with rabbit skin glue and prime it with several thin coats of lead oil, which I let dry for two weeks between coats. The tricky part with lead is that it is toxic so I dress up hazmat fot this little dance.

My grandfather – circa 1938

My grandfather was an oil painter and a successful businessman, very skilled in the technique of Intarsia. He was very active in Bulgarian society prior to 1944 and was nominated, as part of a delegation of the Bulgarian trade elite, a godfather to King Simeon II of Bulgaria. He lost almost everything and escaped barely with his life during the communist revolution of 1944-47. He escaped execution with the help of a friendly lawyer but watched in terror from his house’s terrace high on the hills – the muzzle flashes of executions of many of his friends and colleagues. He was later sent to labor camps, was registered in the communist party’s archives as an enemy of the state and was not allowed to work for the rest of his life. Growing up I remember a very strange man living in my grandparents’ house – he was installed to spy on my grandparents’ activities and was there for almost 20 years. As a kid I was kept ignorant of the family history and only learned things piece by piece after my grandfather passed from a heart condition shortly after the Chernobyl incident. I vividly remember, however, my grandpa listening to the BBC and the Voice of America, a highly illegal activity at the time.

Grandfather at Union Club – Sofia, 1938:

I always keep at least one of grandpa’s works in sight. Here is my “wet” studio where I handle more toxic processes – I just laid first coat of Lead Oil primer on newly stretched linen canvases and also dry an underpainting created with genuine Chinese Vermilion ( the very toxic Mercuric Sulphide ). And grandpa’s landscape Intarsia of the old capital of Bulgaria is hiding behind the printer box waiting to be hung:

Thank you for coming!

It was great to see you at my Bushwick Show – Invented Mythologies !  And Thank you for braving the heat in Bushwick, some of you coming from upstate or Manhattan, which is just as far:)

I got a fresh point of view and heard your comments about the work and your honest opinions. I was amazed at the insights some of you had about what you thought was a successful piece and what you thought was the best part of a successful piece. And what you thought didn’t work. Artists sometimes like to say they do the work for themselves. The truth is we are part of a soup, physiologically and cognitively, we constantly shed cells and replenish with new ones, we are constantly engaged in the world mentally.. so unless we a are a Robinson Crusoe – we are an amalgamation, and so is our work.. to some degree.