Categories
.debris. Americas Industry Mobilities Rocky Mountain West

refinery

Commerce City
Colorado

Motherhood changes us. For me, the arrival of Thatcher Gray caused a shift from explorations of the long term impacts of war to an internalization of how we nourish ourselves. Internally, I was growing a child, nourishing him within then using my body to feed him, so I became acutely aware of what I was putting in my body. As he started eating solid food, I became obsessed with where that food came from, how it was grown and the load of chemicals that could potentially add to our body burdens. We started growing our own food. Before creating artworks that emphasized solution oriented practices, I explored how to represent the impacts of petrochemicals. This series of mixed media works on paper integrated a base texture made from a silkscreen print of collaged plastic that I had singed with a blowtorch. I transferred photographs of the oil refinery in Commerce City, just north of Denver. These photographs were taken during a rainstorm while Thatcher was safely cuddled at home with grandma. They are abstracted by the movement of my car as I was driving by. Generally I like to compose landscapes with slow consideration, but this particular afternoon I was confronted by hefty plain clothed security guards within 3 minutes of stepping out of my car, even though I was on a public avenue. The angles of the drive by photographs coupled with the often blurred motion recorded by the camera added a dynamic quality to the compositions that are similar to the textures wrought by a shotgun blast, both processes being slightly out of control. Into this foundation, I painted out aspects of the industrial landscape with oils to highlight the skewed angles and add atmospheric depth.

refinery: mixed media painting by Lee Lee
refinery: mixed media painting by Lee Lee
refinery: mixed media painting by Lee Lee
refinery: mixed media painting by Lee Lee
refinery: mixed media painting by Lee Lee
refinery: mixed media painting by Lee Lee
refinery: mixed media painting by Lee Lee
refinery: mixed media painting by Lee Lee
Categories
.debris. Americas Industry Mobilities Rocky Mountain West

rain

Commerce City
Colorado

I was only able to compose two images of the Commerce City Oil Refinery in the rain before being asked to leave by plain clothed security guards. I felt compelled to create these landscapes of the industry which drives our mobilities-centered culture as the start to an exploration of how petro chemicals dominate our era. They are painted with thin veils of oil paint interspersed with drawings made with conte crayon on unstretched canvas.

detail of rain - oil painting by Lee Lee
rain - oil on canvas by Lee Lee
Categories
Americas Rocky Mountain West

pine

One of the most shocking effects of climate change out west is the explosion of the pine beetle. Without a period of deep freeze across a full month of time, the beetles were not kept in check by the normal cycle of the winter season. So they spread like wildfire and killed huge swaths of lodgepole pines. Whole mountain ranges became cloaked in the rust colored dead forest. Because of the dry climate, this led to mega-wildfires. Where fire is essential to the cycle of the forests in the west, these super fires wrought nothing but destruction. The lumber is still good, but the market became quickly saturated, so landowners had a hard time finding ways to clear their dead woods and still make ends meet from the clearing. The Lazy Shamrock Ranch has a tree farm in the higher elevations of the ranch. The trees were infected and ultimately logged out to make toilet paper. We enjoyed several bonfires of slash over the years it took to clear the wood. By the time they had cleared the breadth of their tree farm, young trees started growing. It ends up that beetles target trees that are tired. Development disrupts the natural cycle of fire, so we end up with aged forests. When the young trees are growing, even in an outbreak of pine beetle, they produce enough sap that the beetle cannot burrow under the bark, so they thrive. I made these four oil paintings on canvas as intimate portraits of infected trees. I was heartbroken to see such dramatic shifts in the landscape, but I also realize we are experiencing great changes in our time.

Lee Lee oil painting of beetle kill in Colorado
Lee Lee oil painting of beetle kill in Colorado
Lee Lee oil painting of beetle kill in Colorado
private collection
Lee Lee oil painting of beetle kill in Colorado
Categories
Americas Rocky Mountain West

aspen

en plein air

My father spent over 50 years working at the Lazy Shamrock Ranch. Ultimately he became known as the master irrigator throughout the ranching community of the Blue River Valley. We would join him in the spring time when the snow melt run-off was at its highest, so that he could direct the water, spreading it across the meadows to give the grass a good soaking before the summer dryness would set in. In good years, a monsoon season would water the fields later in the season, so this gave a good start to the grass being able to thrive and feed the cattle. It was here that I had the space to work with a shotgun and create textural foundations to my paintings. This series was created in my favorite aspen groves. These areas were magic for me when I was growing up and to this day, when I think of my absolute favorite places, it is the aspen grove which brings me most peace. The shimmering light filtered through quaking leaves, the soft and smooth white bark, the familial nature of the groves and the wildflowers that abound all come together to make an ideal landscape. I would spend days lost in my imagination while wandering with the fairies and sprites who inhabit these groves. By this time in my life, I camped out alone to have the solitude to create these paintings of my most favorite place on earth.

Spring aspen painting by Lee Lee
Spring aspen painting by Lee Lee
Spring aspen painting by Lee Lee
Spring aspen painting by Lee Lee
Spring aspen painting by Lee Lee
Spring aspen painting by Lee Lee
Categories
Americas

Carolina lintheads

My great grandmother was a spinner in South Carolina 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’, where inhabitants were often referred to as ‘lintheads’, 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.

oil painting on burlap of abandoned cotton mill by Lee Lee
oil painting on burlap of abandoned cotton mill by Lee Lee
oil painting on burlap of abandoned cotton mill by Lee Lee
oil painting on burlap of abandoned cotton mill by Lee Lee
Lee Lee | lintheads
oil on burlap
36″ x 28″ | 2007
“Other school mates called them Niggers because they were part Indian and so very dark.My Mother never told me this.I think this is one reason,she let other people intimidate her,all through Life.Plus her Perents kept her out of School until her younger Sister was old enough to go.That way they could walk together. The had Primmer(same as Kinder Garten)when she got into the First grade,she was 8 yrs.old. She made straight A’s,all the way through the 8th grade,then her Family took her out of School to go to work in the Mill to help support the Family This has always bothered her.I told her than should not bother her.She had 3 Sons that got her smarts and their Daddy’s stong Back,they were not afraid of work.One with out the other does not function very well.”
“Sene and Lum’s eldest Child was named Roy.He worked in a Textile Plant all of his life,had 3 Daughters and was the first to die.Lois was the 2nd.child…Milton was next,Textile,also.After retirement,became a Deputy Sheriff.The Story is that you should never put a Gun and Holster on some People.It changes their entire Personality.He had 2 Sons,the Dr.dropped the Instuments on the firs Baby’s Head and killed it.The next Son lived to be 16 and died with Cancer.We were not familiar with Cancer back then.”
“Mema is the last of her 9 Brothers and Sisters. None of them lived to be her age,neither Perents. She was always sickly,never walking until she was 3.The sister that she was the closest was Kathleen.They played together,constantly …They lived in a House on the Mill Village that was built on very high Brick Pillars You could walk around under it.They would build a play house by drawing off the rooms with a stick in the dirt.They filled each room with broken dishes,vases,back then there were not many things being thrown away.They piled up wood for their stove.An older Brother (Milton)told Mema to go ask Granny for a match to light their stove. Granny came under the HOuse and gave Milton a sound thrashing,he knew better,Mema and Kathleen were too young.”
“Lum could not read and write.He boarded a School Teacher in exchange for teaching him.The Teacher was amazed with his ability to work with numbers.When Lum retired from the Mill,He was Asst.Superintendant of the Mill.A very well liked Man.He suffered so much from Asthma and died when he was my age.”
“Lum and Sene,always lived on the Mill Village.He was born in Pelzer (in Piedmont Sene),which is a Mill Town 16 miles from here.His Mother and Father died when he was very young.An older Brother reared him.He went to work in the Mill when he was 9 yrs.old.Long before child labor laws.Lum bought the Farm where I was born and my Daddy Cecil was a Share Cropper.I remember when I was a Child, Lum would come every Sunday,he and my Daddy would walk over the Fields and discuss things

Quotes from letters written by my grandmother, Bonnie Jean Cromer
In the collection of Eron Johnson, Denver
Lee Lee | lintheads | 11″ x 11″ | May 2007
Xerograph, charcoal, pencil and tar paper collaged with burnt Strathmore paper
Categories
Rocky Mountain West

Shadow Creek

Lee Lee landscape painting of Shadow Creek Ranch, Colorado

en plein air

After irrigating on the Lazy Shamrock Ranch for over 50 years, my father was asked to restore an old network of ditches that had fallen into dis-use at the neighboring Shadow Creek Ranch. Because the Flanigans were keeping some of their cattle there, they urged my dad to take the offer as they knew that he would grow more ‘groceries’ on which to sustain the large herd. Shadow Creek was taking a unique approach to ranching. They had subdivided a portion of the ranch to build luxury homes then hired ranch hands to run the operation. Part of the package was the use of little hunting cabins perched high above the ranches. Instead of commuting back and forth, we stayed together in one of these little cabins for a while during his time working there. Cooking over a campfire, sleeping out under the stars, waking up to spectacular views of the Gore range and exploring the immediate woodlands were sheer delight. I created a series of plein-air paintings of a nearby forest hollow that was filled with fallen trees. The tangle of massive trunks was visually appealing. The cool shadows of the forest in this area offered a respite from the glaring early summer sun. I felt dwarfed by the size of the piled up wood and it brought me back to my childhood and the awe that I felt by these landscapes. These works are small scale oil on card.

Shadow Creek Ranch landscape painting by Lee Lee
Shadow Creek Ranch landscape painting by Lee Lee
Shadow Creek Ranch landscape painting by Lee Lee
Shadow Creek Ranch landscape painting by Lee Lee
Shadow Creek Ranch landscape painting by Lee Lee
Lee Lee landscape painting of Shadow Creek Ranch, Colorado
Shadow Creek Ranch landscape painting by Lee Lee
Categories
Africa

Santaria

Cuba

Santaria priest dog oil painting by Lee Lee
Priest’s dog | Cuba | oil on canvas | 5.2006

During a visit to Cuba in the winter of 2000, we had the opportunity to partake in a blessing performed by a Santaria Priest, just outside of Havana. We witnessed the sacrifice of a pure white chicken, the blood of which added to the layers caked upon his shrines, which added a deeply visceral quality to the forms sculpted by use over many years. The room was dark, lit only by a couple of small windows and candles that were nestled into the organic forms of the shrines. The practice largely grew from African traditions brought to the island during the forced migration of slaves. The materials that were used could be seen as common, yet they were imbued with significant symbolism which allowed them to be used as tools for prayer during these dynamic rituals. Chains represented enslavement and rusted railroad spikes carried the sleek energy of the rail as a passageway or path down which we may release our energy in the world. Tree branches were incorporated as representations of the transfer of energy between earth and sky. Home made dolls incorporated a human element into the mix. Eggs were incorporated within the act of the ritual as a powerful symbol of regeneration. Feathers used as symbols for freedom. It took many years for the experience to settle. Ultimately I created a series of mixed media works on paper integrating stone lithography, collage, rust stains and drawing with oil pastel, spraypaint, chalk and pencils. The largely abstract works are intended to capture the feeling of the space, and the shifting, almost swirling energy produced by the act of the ritual, which culminated in the representations of the shrines as fragmented. It’s as if the energy imbued in the symbols that made up the shrine were breaking apart to lend their energy to the acts performed within this space.

Santaria Shrine - mixed medial work on paper by Lee Lee
Santaria Shrine - mixed medial work on paper by Lee Lee
Santaria Shrine - mixed medial work on paper by Lee Lee
Santaria Shrine - mixed medial work on paper by Lee Lee
Santaria Shrine - mixed medial work on paper by Lee Lee

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
Categories
Americas Slow Food

Kalihi

Time spent in Honolulu in the first years of the new millennium was split between our home, way up in the top of the valley above Palolo, the Honolulu Academy of Arts, where I studied stone lithography with James Koga, and the studio, perched above a woodshop that built Ukeleles in the industrial zone of Kalihi. This was an area where I needed to be accompanied by a local as it was rare to see a white face there. It was in Kalihi that I found and painted these fish markets. The street scenes reflected in shop windows were painted in Chinatown, from photographs I had taken on family dim sum Sundays.

Fish market in Honolulu - oil painting by Lee Lee
Crab tanks | Private collection, Mexico
Fish market in Honolulu - oil painting by Lee Lee
On view at the Taos Distillery
Fish market in Honolulu - oil painting by Lee Lee
Red Snapper | Private collection, Providence RI
Chinatown Honolulu - oil painting by Lee Lee
Chinatown Honolulu - oil painting by Lee Lee
Chinatown Honolulu - oil painting by Lee Lee