Lily Lee

Boise, ID

July 1-19, 2019

In collaboration with the Commuter Biennial, curated by Laura Randall

Artist Statement

Working in sculpture and textiles Lily Martina Lee aims to depict an alternative construct of the American West through the themes of true crime and transportation. Lee has received from institutions including the Idaho Commission on the Arts and the Alexa Rose Foundation. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, notably at the Boise Art Museum, the Tacoma Art Museum, the Textile Arts Factory in Thessaloniki, Greece, and in Guimaraes, Portugal in the Contemporary Textile Art Biennial. Lee received her BFA in Fibers with a BA in American Indian Studies and an Anthropology minor and her MFA at the University of Oregon. Lee is an Assistant Professor of Sculpture at Boise State University.

My work is a contemporary portrait of the American West, stripped of idealization and steeped in idiosyncrasies and paradox. Employing labor-intensive processes from weaving to metal fabrication, I make work that looks beyond the natural beauty of the West to a thematic space in which litter laws, motor vehicles and labor industries constitute the American landscape. 

I approach my subject matter by researching legal documents. From most wanted postings to standard technical specifications, the dry language leads me to contemplate how the raw material of living is represented and defined. I am fascinated by the paradox in which the overly specific becomes absurd, and fails to represent what it describes in detail.

I avoid materials that I consider to be wholesome, working instead with media that carries a more contested identity: things that are cosmetic, decorative and cheap such as synthetic fibers, glass beads and automotive accessories. My work asserts the relevance of the idiosyncratic and unconventional bricolage that makes up contemporary life in the American West suggesting that these realities are every bit as critical and endearing a part of the region’s history, development, and identity as the vast natural wonders that have symbolized the West for so long.

In my current body of work I am handweaving burial shrouds to commemorate the victims of the Great Basin Murders. Using Fiberworks, a weaving software program I develop original weave patterns using data from each case including height, weight and age estimates as well as the date and GPS coordinates of when and where the victim was located. The density of the weaving communicates the postmortem interval. While this work is an attempt to broach the anonymity of unidentified human remains through devotional craft, the resulting woven panels remain visually austere illustrating the absence of information that characterizes many cold cases.

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