Lee Lee



fantasma en el viento
tar, sharpie, watercolor & pencil over torn lithograph - 7.5" x 7.5" - 5.10




From the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, Mayans have lived in a state of turmoil. Their land continues to be stolen from them, and their labor is exploited to this day. The recent culmination of genocide during the 1970s and 80s is a poignant manifestation of the tensions experienced there.

When a friend holds up a new cotton t-shirt she picked up for $5 at Target, I wonder at the true cost and history of that garment. Treated like slaves on plantation style agricultural production facilities owned by multinational corporations, Mayan farmers fill the demands of a cheap US lifestyle which comes at a severe cost to both people and the environment in Guatemala.

Somehow, Mayan culture is not decimated. I can’t think of many populations who have a greater respect for the earth, and whose traditional farming techniques work in such harmony with their environment. I am in awe of the Mayan dedication to tradition and their core set of values, of which love of the environment is primary. They still practice ancient customs and manifest them through the colorful and intricate weavings which are worn with pride.

For this series of mixed media works on paper, I started with printing stone lithographs of lush forest. I stained the forest prints with fresh tar by driving over them with my truck. They were then torn into the small squares that are the foundation of the work. The process of making these grounds are a reflection of the situation which has been imposed on the Maya for generations; in which their land has been torn from them and fragmented only to be exploited. The texture of tar is an echo of the continuing destructive influence of multinational corporations. Tar is made from oil which also makes up the petrochemicals used in agriculture that are decimating the environment.

My understanding of the circumstance in Guatemala is largely informed by the writing of Nobel peace prize winner Rigoberta Menchú. Having seen her speak passionately about her work, I find myself inspired by a truly extraordinary woman. The watermedia drawings in this series are portraits of Mayan women I gathered at the highlands market in Chichicastenango. Exploring a wide range of human emotion from being weary and hurt to looking forward with hope, the vignettes are intended to explore the breadth and range of emotional textures in this community.

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.

Exhibition for the Mayan New Year: Dairy Center for the Arts
June 22 - July 27, 2012 - 2590 Walnut Street, Boulder, CO

Original exhibition coinciding with the 2010 Biennial of the Americas - Denver
Gallery 420 -
420 Downing Street - Denver


View portraits of women from the Highlands of Guatemala
Untitled Document Chichicastenango Market, Guatemala