Lee Lee
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Reap

Interview with Andrew Silverstein, University of South Florida

 


Rain - Oil Refinery
watercolor, conte & oil on canvas - 72" x 51" - 8.9

 

Refinery
polymer transfer, oil & acryllic over a silkscreen
of melted plastic - 8" x 8" - 6.9

 

Observation deck
Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Silo
acryllic on canvas - 8.9

 

Ghost - Slaughterhouse
watercolor, ink, colored pencil & tar on shotgunned collage - 22" x 30" - 7.9

 

deer
pencil and tar on paper - 30" x 22" - 11.8

 

Bleed
oil, colored pencil & sharpie on shotgunned plywood

 

migrate
watermedia & rust on paper

 

Bee
collaboration with Thatcher Gray
watermedia & sharpie on unique lithograph

Lets start with the basics. When did your journey into visual art begin?
While I was always encouraged to express myself, it was in high school that I became aware that one could pursue art as a professional career.

As a writer I’ve faced the dreaded “writer’s block” when trying to create. Are there days where you sit down and become plagued with your own “painters block?” If so, what course of action do you typically take?
I go outside and get blood flowing through my brain. There are uncountable works in process in my studio at any one time. I explore overarching themes, many of which surface over the years even as they are not consistently worked. Out of these explorations there are inevitably works that are rejected. I take those and recycle them, transforming the surface to build rich textures. I have enough under way that I can return to works as the inspiration arises while letting dormant ones lay. Also, I don’t prepare a new surface until I know what I’m going to be painting on it.

In terms of inspiration, which artists, past or present, have made the most significant impact on you and your own work?
San Francisco based Siveya Ethersmith (duplicious.com) instigated our mission into the missile silo. Denver photographer Rhy Jouett (rhy.unclesteve.com) takes beautiful macro photos of industry in decay and led a group of artists into the abandoned slaughterhouse. Both the slaughterhouse and the missile silo have amazing acoustics which led to music making that helped manifest the haunted quality of the places into the source images I gathered while there. Other landscape artists hanging on my dash during the creation of Reap include Jill Hadley Hooper, Judy Pfaff, Sharon Feder, Robin Reynolds and James Cook’s refinery paintings.

Some of your work in Reap has this juxtaposition between these seemingly drab, cold industrial objects (oil refineries, telephone lines) and these scattered paint blotches and brush strokes. What inspired the marriage of these two elements?
The scattered red paint blotches were made using a silkscreen of blowtorched plastic. I felt like the toxic quality of melted plastic reflected the toxicities inherent in oil production, so echo the environmental impacts of our consumption.

You also utilize a lot of natural, earth tones in many of the Reap pieces, yet industry, be it food or anything else, is so un-natural. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but was this intentional? If so, why?
My work explores the interconnection of all things. Everything is of this earth, even if it was living hundreds of millions of years ago, as in the case of fossil fuels. Aside from the working oil refineries, the industrial structures I portrayed in this exhibit are in various states of decay; melting back into the earth from which they arose. I feel it was important to portray them in a state of decay because we simply cannot continue living our current lifestyle. Our food machine is a crumbling institution which will run itself into the ground at one point or another. Perhaps it’s just a matter of how many of us it takes down with it.

On some of your painting descriptions you mention they were done on “shotgunned collage” or “shotgunned wood” I believe it was called. For the somewhat art-ignorant like myself, what does a painting being “shotgunned” entail?
It entails shooting the painting with a shotgun.

You watch cable news for an hour today and you’ll probably run out of fingers and toes to count the ills of society they point out. Out of all these, what motivated you to choose the “American food machine” as a focal point for your exhibit?
My son, Thatcher Gray, was born 15 months ago. As I started feeding him solids, I took a hard look at how Americans produce food. It struck me how the industrialization of food production parallels the explosive growth of degenerative illnesses. According to the Weston A Price foundation, illness like cancer, heart disease, diabetes and even mental illness were relatively rare a century ago. Now we see huge out breaks, even in children, which was unheard of just a generation ago. As most parents, I would like my son to thrive. I feel like offering good nourishment not only provides a strong foundation for his physical and mental strength, but also has less of an environmental impact which will affect the world he and his peers inherit.

Between exhibits like Reap and movies like Food Inc. and Fast Food Nation, it really seems like the American food industry has been under some fire as of late. Do you see any healthful change coming any time soon?
Absolutely. We are fortunate to live in northern New Mexico where there is a high concentration of small farms who grow a range of sustenance food. It is inspiring to see what people can do with a couple of acres of land. There are wonderful subcultures of seed savers and raw milk producers here. Awareness and movement towards local and sustainable food is nation wide. Whether its individuals, including the first lady, “gettin’ their plant on” by transforming their yards into vegetable gardens, organizations which build urban garden plots and bring school kids in to learn how food grows, or the proliferation of Community Supported Agriculture, people are demonstrating a deep concern about the state of our food production.

What can we do to avoid, I guess you’d call it “bad nourishment” from the food industry? Especially in tough economic times like now, is it even possible without increasing the grocery bill?
Ideally, government would stop giving “farm subsidies” to large machines that produce things like corn to make additives for processed food. This makes unhealthy food the most affordable option, but in the long run, it will cost us all more through addressing the health problems that are arising even now. Instead they should be subsidizing farmers who are growing diverse crops – even if they are grown conventionally. This would make whole foods more accessible. One step is to let your voice be heard.

Despite this overwhelming flaw, there are daily steps we can take. Plant a small garden. Seek out and get to know local growers. Many of the small farmers in our area prefer to trade instead of deal in cash. Eat in season: produce which is in season not only tastes better but is often on sale. Buy from the bulk bins. Become a label reader, and make sure you understand the full ingredient list when you buy pre-packaged foods. There is a fantastic little book by Ellis Jones called The Better World Shopping Guide, which rates producers of everything from oil to flour based on things like environmental impact and the treatment of workers. It’s small enough to fit in your bag. Eat less meat: never before have humans consumed so much meat, and frankly we are less healthy for it. Start by replacing one meat based meal a week with a vegetarian meal. Take time to prepare food instead of falling into the habit of convenience foods, not only for the sake of physical health, but to build bonds with your loved ones. I’ve spent a lot of time abroad where I have found immense amounts of strength in community and family as people express their love through nourishment. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, and it provides platforms for rich converse or vibrant celebrations.

Besides painting, what else keeps you occupied these days?
We are rounding out the harvest season, so I’m putting up produce for the winter. My son keeps me on my toes as well. Together we are setting up a little studio for him to be able to make interpretations of his own discoveries of the world.

What are your plans for the future? Any new ideas, exhibits in the works?
In November, we are heading to Guatemala which interests me because it is a culture that is deeply steeped in a traditional reverence for the land and the crops she offers as nourishment. In the spring I am planning to work with Happy Goat Productions, which is a local farm owned by a doctor of Asian medicine. She provides herd shares so people have access to raw milk. Along with her ancient orchards, the farm has become a strong community builder. I’d like to create work which provides inspiration and solutions to our current food problems by portraying people who are taking a sustainable approach to agriculture by returning to various traditions. I am also very interested in exploring seeds. One of the tremendous dangers confronting us now is big corporations, like Monsanto, placing patents on seeds. This has the capability of jeopardizing our future food security.


Thank you for your time. This issue will be out November 2nd.
Thank you for taking the time to explore the concepts more thoroughly.

 

REAP
October 2 - November 30, 2009:
C Emerson Fine Art
909 Central Avenue, Saint Petersburg, Florida
www.c-emersonfinearts.com

 

Installation Overview

 

View work created for REAP

Rain - Oil Refinery
Untitled Document
Rain
Refinery
Refinery
Refinery
Refinery
Refinery
Refinery
Refinery
Refinery
Refinery

Crop
Untitled Document
ICBM silo
ICBM silo observation deck
ICBM silo blast tunnel
ICBM silo generator

Ghost - Abandoned Slaughterhouse
Untitled Document
Slaughterhouse
Slaughterhouse
Slaughterhouse
Slaughterhouse
Slaughterhouse
Slaughterhouse

Roadkill
Untitled Document

Bleed - Infected Forests
Untitled Document
Lee Lee - Infected Aspen
Lee Lee - Infected Aspen
Lee Lee - Infected Aspen
Lee Lee - Infected Aspen
Lee Lee - Infected Aspen
Lee Lee - Infected Aspen
Lee Lee - Infected Aspen
Lee Lee - Infected Aspen
Lee Lee - Infected Aspen
Lee Lee - Infected Aspen
Lee Lee - Infected Aspen
Lee Lee - Infected Aspen