Categories
Asia Slow Food Women

Intha Market

Inle Lake, Burma

These watermedia works on paper were created in Taos in the first year or so of Thatcher Gray’s life. They depict a meandering through the Intha market on Inle lake in Burma I took a decade earlier, when the country was considered to be on the cusp of genocide. Dominating the atmosphere is the official verbiage of Myanmar’s Military government, oppressing the space with the dingy palette of the newspaper. By 2010, I was hearing news of flat out genocidal acts being performed around the perimeter of the country by friends who were volunteering there as health workers. Their stories inspired me to reflect on the tensions felt by those who come from communities targeted; how it must feel to navigate this brutal society while maintaining an identity interwoven with traditional tribal practices. The expressions portrayed in the Intha Market series often seem tense, but as is the nature of markets, cultures may thrive in the face of oppression through the exchange and practice of culinary traditions. The ‘ghost’ paintings invoke a certain amount of freedom for me, and I consider them to be as important to the work as a whole, together with the sides I actively produced. The lack of newspaper and colors that drift unconfined by additional lines through the handmade paper acquired in the market. Some drawings contain the first scribblings of Thatcher Gray, who was just starting to learn how to hold markers in ways that he could imitate mom.

Intha Market, Burma watercolor by Lee Lee
Intha Market, Burma watercolor by Lee Lee
Intha Market, Burma watercolor by Lee Lee
Intha Market, Burma watercolor by Lee Lee
Intha Market, Burma watercolor by Lee Lee
Intha Market, Burma watercolor by Lee Lee
Intha Market, Burma watercolor by Lee Lee
Intha Market, Burma watercolor by Lee Lee
Intha Market, Burma watercolor by Lee Lee
Intha Market, Burma watercolor by Lee Lee
Intha Market, Burma watercolor by Lee Lee
Intha Market, Burma watercolor by Lee Lee
Intha Market, Burma watercolor by Lee Lee
Intha Market, Burma watercolor by Lee Lee
Intha Market, Burma watercolor by Lee Lee
Intha Market, Burma watercolor by Lee Lee
Intha Market, Burma watercolor by Lee Lee
Intha Market, Burma watercolor by Lee Lee
Intha Market, Burma watercolor by Lee Lee
Intha Market, Burma watercolor by Lee Lee
Intha Market, Burma watercolor by Lee Lee
Intha Market, Burma watercolor by Lee Lee
Intha Market, Burma watercolor by Lee Lee
Lee Lee | Intha Market, Inle Lake, Burma 2005
Mixed Media including watercolor, sharpie, pencil, ballpoint pen and gouache on local handmade paper, collaged with Myanmar’s official newspaper
roughly 11″ x 11″ | 2010 Taos
Categories
Asia

Confined shrines

As my pregnant belly swelled through the second trimester, I resided at the Ragdale Foundation on an awarded residency to work on a series of mixed media works depicting the confined shrines I photographed in Myanmar 3 years prior. I was struck by how many Buddhist shrines were kept in cages under lock and key and felt the images were a poignant reflection of the political climate. Some of the works contain Burmese newspaper collaged in. They were created with a xerograph process which involves transferring xerox copies, in this case of high contrast photographs of the cages that surrounded the shrines. Atop the transfers, Embedded within the cages are the golden shrines, well tended aside from being caged.

mixed media painting from Myanmar by Lee Lee
mixed media painting from Myanmar by Lee Lee
mixed media painting from Myanmar by Lee Lee
mixed media painting from Myanmar by Lee Lee
mixed media painting from Myanmar by Lee Lee
mixed media painting from Myanmar by Lee Lee
mixed media painting from Myanmar by Lee Lee
mixed media painting from Myanmar by Lee Lee
mixed media painting from Myanmar by Lee Lee
mixed media painting from Myanmar by Lee Lee
mixed media painting from Myanmar by Lee Lee
mixed media painting from Myanmar by Lee Lee
mixed media painting from Myanmar by Lee Lee
mixed media painting from Myanmar by Lee Lee
Categories
Asia Mobilities Women

Weave

A Contemplative Measure of the Gains and Losses of our Global Times

Lee Lee oil painting of Burmese cotton weaver
Detail of a cotton weaver on Inle Lake in Burma

“Weave” is a collection of paintings reflecting the social, political and emotional manifestations of the ancient art of weaving.

These figurative paintings are the result of travels through China, Myanmar and South Carolina. Capturing weavers in their daily rituals, the paintings blend woman with machine in a celebration of the ancient art and a contemplative measure of the gains and losses of our global times.

The loud clang of industrial mass production is frequent in China these days. Well-known for its sweat shop style of labor, it’s an ominous forecast for the future.

Two years ago I was there and photographed a silk mill outside of Shanghai. Under fluorescent lights, the colors of steel and cement are cold, edges sharp. The women working the mill have their backs turned or their faces obscured. The fast and chaotic movement of the mass production is echoed through high energy brushstrokes.

In contrast, ancient forms of hand weaving are still practiced in places like Burma (Myanmar), where I recently spent time with a family of weavers. The experience left me with contradictions that I explored through paintings.

Their shop was the first floor of their home, stilted over Inle lake. The organic qualities of their massive hand hewn looms fill the room with the soft atmosphere of wood and cotton. They live under one of the most oppressive regimes today, which has resulted in a boycott of Myanmar by most countries. I wanted to reflect this existence of being completely cut off from the modern world by embedding the figures deep within the architecture of their looms. They are as visually separate from us, as they are culturally.

Closer to home, I explored the cotton mill in Anderson, South Carolina where my great grandmother was a spinner for most of her life. She took me there before she died, and I recorded the burnt out and collapsed structures as a perfect reflection of how manufacturing has continued to leave our borders over the years. The elegant brick structures have been abandoned for cheap labor and lower environmental standards found elsewhere in the world.

Offering an intimate portrayal of life in a “mill village”, I appropriated excerpts from my grandmother’s letters into burnt drawings of the mill. They reflect the difficulties of life during the industrial era and remind us that we are not so different from people elsewhere.

Categories
Asia Women

Inle Lake Cottonweavers

Their shop was the first floor of their home, stilted over Inle lake in Burma. The organic qualities of their massive hand hewn looms fill the room with the soft atmosphere of wood and cotton. They live under one of the most oppressive regimes today, which has resulted in a boycott of Myanmar by most countries. I wanted to reflect this existence of being completely cut off from the modern world by embedding the figures deep within the architecture of their looms. They are as visually separate from us, as they are culturally.

Oil painting of Inle Lake cottonweavers, Burma by Lee Lee
Oil painting of Inle Lake cottonweavers, Burma by Lee Lee
Oil painting of Inle Lake cottonweavers, Burma by Lee Lee
Oil painting of Inle Lake cottonweavers, Burma by Lee Lee
Lee Lee | Weave | Inle Lake, Burma
Oil on canvas | 26″ x 38″ | 2007
Categories
Asia Mobilities Women

Sou Chou Silk Mills

Weave: Silk Spinning in China

Oil painting of silk spinners in Sou Chou, Hina by Lee Lee

The loud clang of industrial mass production is frequent in China these days. Well-known for its sweat shop style of labor, it’s an ominous forecast for the future. In 2005 I photographed a silk mill outside of Shanghai. Under fluorescent lights, the colors of steel and cement are cold, edges sharp. The women working the mill have their backs turned or their faces obscured. The fast and chaotic movement of the mass production is echoed through high energy brushstrokes.

Lee Lee: oil painting of silk mill in China
Lee Lee: oil painting of silk mill in China
Lee Lee: oil painting of silk mill in China
Lee Lee | ‘Spin’ | Silk mill in Sou Chou, China 2015
Unraveling the silk cocoons and spinning the fine silk threads
oil on linen | 20″ x 36″ | 2007
Lee Lee | Spin
Ballpoint pen drawings on vellum collaged with Chinese newspaper
9″ x 11″ | 2007
Categories
Asia Sacred Practice Women

Sacred Waters: Ganga

Lee Lee watercolor painting of Varanasi India

A journey through northern India included a visit to Bodhgaya, where we found a tree considered sacred because it had grown from the tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment. We also spent time in Varnasi, along the river considered sacred in Hindu traditions. I was deeply moved by people’s interactions with the river as they performed cleansing rituals and completed daily chores along the ancient Ghats. At the time we were there, the river was receding, leaving the huge stairs caked with piles of mud. These were steadily cleared back into the river by teams of workers, steadily completing this annual task amidst those who were laundering, praying and mourning. It is believed that if one dies here, they will be re-born at a higher level in the caste system, so there are many people who come here to die and many who mourn their lost ones. I retain a poignant memory of a half burnt corpse submerged with the remnants of ceremonial fabric; firewood is expensive on the burning ghats, and if a family doesn’t have enough, the half burned remains are strewn into the river. Struck by how polluted the river was, we were surprised and delighted to see the rare fresh water dolphins from a boat floating in waters lit quietly by the dawn. We went on this journey in 2005 to celebrate 30 years circling the sun. I created this series of watercolors the following year.

This imagery also inspired The Making of Dust, a mixed media painting created in response to the poem of the same name by Drew Myron

Lee Lee watercolor painting of Varanasi India
watercolor, pencil, oxidized copper & blood on handmade Indian paper | 29” x 21.5”
In the collection of Susan Kirk, Denver
Lee Lee watercolor painting of Varanasi India
Mudflats | watercolor, pencil, oxidized copper & blood on handmade Indian paper | 21.5” x 29”
Lee Lee watercolor painting of Varanasi India
When offerings are washed ashore and lay on the mud, the Laundry is taken out | watercolor, pencil, oxidized copper & blood on handmade Indian paper | 21.5” x 29” | Reworked & completed March 2008
On view at the Distillery, Taos
Lee Lee watercolor painting of Varanasi India
Ghat | watercolor, pencil, oxidized copper & blood on handmade Indian paper | 21.5” x 29”
Lee Lee watercolor painting of Varanasi India
FLow: Early Morning Rituals along the Sacred Ganga | watercolor, pencil, oxidized copper & blood on handmade Indian paper | 6” x 8” | Reworked & completed February 2010
On view at the Distillery, Taos
Lee Lee watercolor painting of Varanasi India
In Mourning on the Ganga in the Morn | watercolor, pencil, oxidized copper & blood on handmade Indian paper | 29” x 21.5”
Private collection, Denver
Lee Lee watercolor painting of Varanasi India
Sadhu | watercolor, pencil, oxidized copper & blood on handmade Indian paper | 29” x 21.5”
On view at the Distillery, Taos
Categories
Asia Women

Bagan

Burma

In 2005, Burma was on the cusp on Genocide. The country was just opening up to tourism, but it took a lot of attention to travel in a way that did not directly support the oppressive government. We visited the ancient temples sprawled across the plains in Bagan and were left in awe of the structures. This series of portraits are of women found on the streets, in between temples and tucked inside shrine rooms. They are shy in an environment steeped in fear.

Painting of Bagan, Burma by Lee Lee
Painting of Bagan, Burma by Lee Lee
Painting of Bagan, Burma by Lee Lee
Painting of Bagan, Burma by Lee Lee
Lee Lee | Women of Bagan | Burma 2005
Mixed media, including oil, pencil. oil pastel and pen on paper
12″ x 15″ | 2006 | In the collection of Kate Culligan & Josh Comfort, Denver
Categories
Asia Sacred Practice Women

The Making of Dust

Drawing from Varanasi, India by Lee Lee
The Making of Dust – detail

This painting was inpired by the poem The Making of Dust by Drew Myron. It was created for an invitational exhibition at Weilworks in Denver, in which all artists were asked to create a work inspired specifically by this poem by Drew Myron. Integrating imagery of cracked earth and a woman immersed in prayer from Varanasi, India, the work was drawn into paper which had been printed with fresh tar using a pickup truck.

The Making of Dust
Drew Myron

The car roars past the turned face

no burning regret
no slow moving sorrow
this the near-miss noticed
indifferent

the ledge trembles still we hold
hands dive.
We are this secure, this fragile
a marriage of disconnects
confessions comforts a faint
light forming

This is the making of dust
a layer tangible as grace
the earth cracks
soundless beneath our feet.

The making of Dust by Lee Lee
The Making of Dust | tar, watercolor, graphite & oil pastel on Strathmore | 30” x 22”
Private collection, Denver
Categories
Asia

Rajavihara

Ta Prohm temple
Angkor Wat, Cambodia

The Buddhist temple dedicated to the mother of Jayavarman VII stands supported by tree roots that have cascaded down the stone structures and embedded themselves so intricately with the temple, it would prove very difficult to remove them without destroying the ancient buildings. In a beautiful marriage of nature and architecture, the forms were born of many years of the temple sitting forgotten in the tropical forest. Throughout the complex, buildings are adorned with extensive friezes of the battle between the Khmer & Cham centuries ago. In more recent history, it was a stronghold of the Khmer Rouge until they were ousted by the Vietnamese after the American War there. Evidence of bullet holes are pockmarks scattered across the surfaces as residual marks from this tumultuous era. This series was painted from photographs I took there in 1999. At that time, I was exploring the long term impacts of the American presence through the region. My father was a captain in Intelligence during the American war in Vietnam. His task was to interpret aerial photographs to decide where to drop bombs. He spent time in Cambodia during the first stirrings of genocide that flourished after the Americans left the region. The series of landscapes are infused with a red haze that fills the atmosphere, painted in this way to reflect this recent history, while the trees and architecture persist silently into another new age. The grounds-dwellers around the temples of Angkor Wat are without limbs more often than not as the community continues to be confronted by extensive UXO and slowly come to points of healing. The paintings of shrines found throughout the stone halls are a testament to the continued use of the temples as sacred spaces.

Painting of Ta Prohm temple in Angkor Wat, Cambodia by Lee Lee
Painting of Ta Prohm temple in Angkor Wat, Cambodia by Lee Lee
Painting of Ta Prohm temple in Angkor Wat, Cambodia by Lee Lee
Painting of Ta Prohm temple in Angkor Wat, Cambodia by Lee Lee
In the collection of Tracy Weil, Denver
Painting of Ta Prohm temple in Angkor Wat, Cambodia by Lee Lee
Painting of Ta Prohm temple in Angkor Wat, Cambodia by Lee Lee
Painting of Ta Prohm temple in Angkor Wat, Cambodia by Lee Lee
Painting of Ta Prohm temple in Angkor Wat, Cambodia by Lee Lee
Lee Lee | Ta Prohm series from Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Oil on canvas | 2005