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Neo Rio 2020: HOME

The way the box arrived to us here in Maine was circuitous. It was made in Maine, shipped west, then shipped back to Maine in a mobilities intense transaction. It is made primarily of pine, whose cone is the state flower of Maine. We are living in Mulatamicuwon or ‘the place where water flows and sticks to the sand’ now known as Blue Hill Falls. We have only been here for a few years, so have not grown deep enough roots to consider it ‘home’, but it is certainly a lovely place to be during a pandemic. Our current residence is in the homeland of the Penobscot, who spent summers on the peninsula. Part of the Wabanaki family of tribes in what is known as Dawnland, Penobscot were the most decimated communities of the area as European settlers reaped the rich resources of this land. Our house is located in close proximity to the first settler landing spot here in Blue Hill, constructed by a ship builder in 1835. We frequently think of the settler relationships with Penobscot. European colonists ended up severing Maine’s landscape of the great White Pine. They used the straight but flexible trunks for ship masts. The lumber first built the ships then was carried off to build plantations through the Caribbean, laying in place colonial structures of systemized racism that persist today. Africans were severed from their homes to serve in Caribbean plantations constructed from material that was severed from the landscape in Maine. Penobscot people, so closely interwoven with the land, suffered tremendous loss due to the severance physically from the landscape as the landscape was stripped of its’ forests.

We burned the box, then placed a nest inside. While the bird was resourceful with the available materials, it made us sad to think of the synthetic plastic that was woven into this home for birds and reminds us that modern human construction of homes often consists of chemically laden, synthetic material. Within the nest are a pair of pine eggs, painted by Thatcher Gray, along with a marble egg. It reminded us of brood parasites; birds who lay their eggs in other birds’ nests, then fly away so that their young sap the resources from the unwillingly adopted parents. We photographed it in a Hawthorn tree, which was the other species decimated from this landscape. The trees were harvested for their long thorns, which were used as nails in ship construction. These ‘nails’ grew on trees resistant to rot, and would hold up in the salt heavy air better than the iron nails which would succumb to rust. While we were burning the box, Carol Dana, who was visiting from Indian Island, made the comment that the burning reminded her of the mega-fires out west. The fires that sent out a smoky haze that we could see even here in Maine. Her comment tossed me back to the west, the area I do consider HOME.

Neo Rio is hosted by LEAP
Land, Experience & Art of Place
Lee Lee & Thatcher Gray - NeoRio 2020 HOME box
Lee Lee & Thatcher Gray - NeoRio 2020 HOME box
Lee Lee & Thatcher Gray - NeoRio 2020 HOME box
Lee Lee & Thatcher Gray - NeoRio 2020 HOME box
Lee Lee & Thatcher Gray - NeoRio 2020 HOME box
Americas Ecology Maine


2019 brought with it an award for best landscape design from Maine Homes by Downeast Magazine. They awarded first place for reader landscaping for my third year garden at the SEED Barn. They say that it takes three years to establish a garden from seed in Maine, so I was happy to have initiated this process with this bit of recognition. Every year, we grow out an assortment of new native varieties to plant as pollinator pathways and native foodways. As the plants grow into maturity, I look into what particular wildlife the plants support and gather open source photographs, from which I create drawings as studies. Observational drawing is one of the best ways to gain understanding of form, and through exploring the relationships of forms, to become familiar with the functions that are the basis of systems. While these open source images are quickly becoming essential to my own work, I have also begun gathering collections of the images to distribute to educational programs so that students may begin forming their own knowledge of the systems at work.

Watercolor of a painted lady butterfly by Lee Lee
Lee Lee: Painted Lady after Joachim Alves Gaspar
Watercolor & pencil on paper | 2019
Watercolor of Samia Cynthia by Lee Lee
Lee Lee: Samia Cynthia Larvae after Diego Delso
Watercolor | 2019
Watercolor of a Brown Elfin by Lee Lee
Lee Lee: Brown Elfin after Walter Siemund
Watercolor, ink & huckleberry stains | 2019