Categories
Food Mobilities Rocky Mountain West

REAP

The Environmental Unsustainability of the American Food Machine

Oil refinery in Commerce City, painting by Lee Lee
Oil refinery in Commerce City, Colorado | oil on canvas

What does it look like to have a tree scream out in desperation? This body of work is driven by concerns about our nourishment, as well as a fear for the resulting degradation of the environment.

Oil makes up the foundation of the American food machine. Our reliance on fossil fuels in food production is immense. Not only are they used extensively in farming and transportation, they are also the catalyst which fixes ammonium nitrate to make chemical fertilizers. Dominating this installation are paintings depicting an oil refinery in the rain. The size emphasizes our reliance on oil, while the execution questions the effects of fossil fuels on the cleanliness of our natural resources through paint stains dripping into the water.

Oil painting of midwestern crop circles by Lee LEe
Crop Circles | oil on canvas

Flying above Midwestern plains, the crop circles and grids of industrial farms are an imposition on ancient grasslands. The only remaining natural elements are the occasional rivers whose fingers branch up into the geometric landscape. The Crop series consists of dormant fields under a light dusting of snow to reflect how our process of conventional farming is leaching nutrients from the earth while filling our waterways with poisons, which will ultimately cause infertility in our land. Pairing the Crop landscapes with interiors of an abandoned Intercontinental Ballistic Missile silo illustrates a direct link between our systematic food production and war. After WWII, the US Agriculture department encouraged farmers to spread ammonium nitrate, leftover from bomb construction, onto their fields as fertilizer. Today we are deeply entrenched in a war in an attempt to feed our oil habit, which in turn sustains the industrial food machine. It is disturbing that our “nourishment” is born out of war and continues to manifest such destruction to this day.

Abandoned slaughterhouse, watercolor painting by Lee Lee
Abandoned slaughterhouse | watercolor, pencil & tar on shotgunned paper collage

Continuing down the path of food production, a series of watercolors manifests the haunted spaces of an abandoned slaughterhouse. The energy it takes to raise meat takes up the bulk of grain that we produce. In his book, Anger, Thich Nhat Hanh describes how traces of energy are absorbed through consumption. For example, if an animal leads a miserable life, then we absorb that misery when we take their meat into our bodies. This series is complimented by a set of roadkill drawings which serve as a poignant reflection of our attitude towards animal life; these wild animals lay as part of our refuse, disregarded as we speed along the highways of our own lives.

'bleeding' aspen photograph by Lee Lee
Unaltered photograph
‘bleeding’ Aspen
Lazy Shamrock Ranch, Colorado

Both nitrate and carbon emissions from America’s conventional food machine make a huge contribution to climate change. One of the most visually striking symptoms is emerging as a new virus found in aspen trees. The red gashes in the thin skin-like bark of the trees appear as flesh wounds. More than a literal illustration of a shifting environment, the corporeal appearance of the trees make a connection to our own bodies. As our health is intricately connected to the health of the environment, the violence conveyed through the process of using a shotgun in this series reflects the violence we are wreaking on ourselves.

Pinting of a Titan missile silo by Lee Lee
Titan Missile Silo Eastern Colorado Acryllic on Canvas

The built structures portrayed here are in various states of decay; a return to nature. This represents the beginning of a shift in attitude of many Americans who are concerned about the adverse effects of the way we produce and consume food. Despite the prevailing theme of environmental demise in this body of work, we can hardly destroy the environment. Ultimately the world will survive; the question is whether or not humans will be around to enjoy it. The survival of humanity will be determined by the attitudes and approaches we take towards interacting with the environment now.

Categories
Americas Food Insects Mexico migrations Mobilities Rocky Mountain West

monarchs

Lee Lee - monoprint of monarch butterflies
monoprints | 2014
exhibited as an interactive installation with Susanna Mitchell in San Miguel d’Allende, Mexico for the Center for Global Justice, Moving Beyond Capitalism

exhibited in the Woodbine Ecology Center’s nature lab alongside dormant crop circles in the Midwest & a dispersal of milkweed seeds.
Lee Lee monoprint of monarch butterflies
Lee Lee acryllic painting of Midwestern Crop Circles
crop | acrylic on canvas | 2009
Categories
.debris. Europe Ireland migrations Mobilities Rocky Mountain West

Hybrid at Redline

Curatorial Statement
Initiated by Rian Kerrane, a native of Ireland, Hybrid asks fourteen artists to “cross over”. The artists’ work examines the experience of crossing the Atlantic in the current political climate while acknowledging historic influences from each artist’s perspective; identifying experiences of (dis)placement and immersion in cultural and social surroundings from either side of the Atlantic. RedLine provides the first venue for a pair of exhibitions, the second of which will take place in Ireland, allowing each artist to engage both with “local” proximity and “foreign” distance in turn.

The wide range of included media and the diverse origins of the participants are intended to incite a stimulating translation and critical examination of ongoing cultural conversations and personal experiences of the hybridization of our lives, expectations, ancestral backgrounds, geology, perceptions, identities, of immigration, and of both the geographic distance and human commonality of the artists.

Shaped by Kerrane’s personal ties with the included artists, Hybrid emerges from a reflective process of curatorial matchmaking. Working in sculpture, painting, drawing, photography, film and installation, the works of these two groups of artists both mirror and confront one another. Hybrid acknowledges and pays tribute to complex local experiences in a common global culture, reflecting Kerrane’s eighteen years of continually (re)crossing the Atlantic.

Artist’s Statement
The Irish arrived in the west as hard rock miners, and planted the seeds of industrialization that changed the face of our landscape and established the foundation of culture in our mountain towns. Even today, the old saloons carry an Irish flavor. This series looks at the long term, chemical impacts of a set of mines perched around the town of Leadville, at the headwaters of the Arkansas river. I was awarded a Terraphilia residency through the Colorado Art Ranch, where I had the opportunity to get to know the ecologist, Susan Tweit. She offered great insight into the nature of the river, and the transformation of the ecology after the grouping of mines upstream became a federal ‘Superfund’ site, wherein the pollution from the mines was mitigated. The mines had no outflow, so when the snow melts, all the passages fill up with water, which then overflows into the Arkansas River, killing all the insects and larvae in a flood of red-colored heavy metals from the mines. The drawings here were paired with a series of waterflies native to the region & drawn with red-tinged ink in a way that make them look like they were exploding.

drawing of the Leadville mines by Lee Lee
drawing of the Leadville mines by Lee Lee
drawing of the Leadville mines by Lee Lee
drawing of the Leadville mines by Lee Lee
drawing of the Leadville mines by Lee Lee
drawing of the Leadville mines by Lee Lee
drawing of the Leadville mines by Lee Lee
drawing of the Leadville mines by Lee Lee
drawing of the Leadville mines by Lee Lee
Lee Lee | Mines from Leadville, Colorado
Teastains, pencil, ink, gouache, charcoal & watercolor on Strathmore paper
11″ x 11″ | 2012 | Created on a Terraphilia residency hosted by the ecologist Susan Tweit in Salida, CO
Categories
Americas Food Insects Rocky Mountain West

a year in grandpa’s garden – Taos

Garden Watercolor by Lee Lee, Haiku by Peter T Leonard
Radish - Garden Watercolor by Lee Lee, Haiku by Peter T Leonard
Apple - Garden Watercolor by Lee Lee, Haiku by Peter T Leonard
Waterfall - Garden Watercolor by Lee Lee, Haiku by Peter T Leonard
Zucchini - Garden Watercolor by Lee Lee, Haiku by Peter T Leonard
Calabash - Garden Watercolor by Lee Lee, Haiku by Peter T Leonard
Calabash - Garden Watercolor by Lee Lee, Haiku by Peter T Leonard
tomato - Garden Watercolor by Lee Lee, Haiku by Peter T Leonard
Yellow Squash - Garden Watercolor by Lee Lee, Haiku by Peter T Leonard
Corn - Garden Watercolor by Lee Lee, Haiku by Peter T Leonard
3 sisters - Garden Watercolor by Lee Lee, Haiku by Peter T Leonard
cauliflower - Garden Watercolor by Lee Lee, Haiku by Peter T Leonard
broccoli - Garden Watercolor by Lee Lee, Haiku by Peter T Leonard
carrot - Garden Watercolor by Lee Lee, Haiku by Peter T Leonard
beets - Garden Watercolor by Lee Lee, Haiku by Peter T Leonard
kale - Garden Watercolor by Lee Lee, Haiku by Peter T Leonard
kale - Garden Watercolor by Lee Lee, Haiku by Peter T Leonard
winter squash - Garden Watercolor by Lee Lee, Haiku by Peter T Leonard
Categories
Rocky Mountain West

brand

Cattle branding - pencil drawing by Lee Lee
Preparing the tag | pencil on cardstock | 4.25″ x 5.25″
Cattle branding - pencil drawing by Lee Lee
Nostril pinch | pencil on cardstock | 4.25″ x 5.25″
In the collection of the McFaddin Ranch, Texas
Cattle branding - pencil drawing by Lee Lee
Roped | pencil on cardstock | 4.25″ x 5.25″
In the collection of the McFaddin Ranch, Texas
Cattle branding - pencil drawing by Lee Lee
Taggin’ | pencil on cardstock | 4.25″ x 5.25″
Cattle branding - pencil drawing by Lee Lee
Dogged | pencil on cardstock | 4.25″ x 5.25″
In the collection of the McFaddin Ranch, Texas
Cattle branding - pencil drawing by Lee Lee
Castration | pencil on cardstock | 4.25″ x 5.25″
In the collection of the McFaddin Ranch, Texas
Categories
Rocky Mountain West

Lazy Shamrock Ranch

Bulldoggin', oil painting by Lee Lee
Bulldoggin’ | oil on canvas | 54″ x 64″
On view at The Distillery, Taos
Bulldoggin' detail by Lee Lee
detail of Bulldoggin’
Branding & doctoring | oil on canvas | 22″ x 32″
In the collection of Kelly Snider
Oil painting of cowboys be Lee Lee
Brand | oil on canvas | 32″ x 44″
In the Townsend collection, Denver
Corral | oil on canvas | 22″x32″
In the collection of Gyda & Sean Flanigan
Sean with the iron | oil on canvas | 54″ x 64″
On view at the SEED Barn, Blue Hill
detail of Sean with the Iron
Categories
Rocky Mountain West

tack shed

These still life paintings were created while tucked into the tack shed during the winter cold in January, 2005. The snow covered landscape is visible through the window. Saddles, bridles and gear infused with the warm smell of horses lay in rest through the winter season.

tack shed oil painting by Lee Lee
Tack | oil on canvas | 16″ x 16″
tack shed oil painting by Lee Lee
Tack | oil on canvas | 16″ x 16″
tack shed oil painting by Lee Lee
Tack workbench | oil on canvas | 16″ x 16″
tack shed oil painting by Lee Lee
Tack | oil on canvas | 16″ x 16″