Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Silo
acryllic on canvas - 20" x 21"
watercolor, pencil & tar on shotgunned
24" x 30"
pencil & tar on paper - detail
oil, colored pencil & sharpie on shotgunned
24" x 24"
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
About the Artist
From the intensity of the effects of war,
to the calm of a gentle embrace, Lee Lee explores the
diverse conditions of our world. Time spent in over
40 countries has led her to develop a wide range of
painting styles by constantly experimenting with new
techniques, materials and aesthetics which she appropriates
to particular subjects. She attained a BFA in Fine Arts
from the Rhode Island School of Design and has exhibited
internationally. Recent projects include curating an
exhibit on genocide for the Mizel Museum which grew
into the opportunity to create an installation for the
International Conference of Genocide Scholars in Sarajevo,
receiving residency awards to the Vermont Studio Center
and the Ragdale Foundation, and the inclusion in a poignant
environmental themed exhibit, Extinction, at the Denver
Botanic Gardens. C Emerson Fine Arts has exhibited Lee
Lee in several group shows including Spirituality
& Materialism, React and The Human Condition.
This new work was inspired by her first year of motherhood.