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 Lee Becker  (1937 - )

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Lived/Active: Kansas/Missouri      Known for: landscape, farm animals, portraits and figure painting, teaching

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Lee Becker is a studio artist working in oil, watercolor and printmaking. Among the many themes of her large- and small-scale works are genetically endangered farm animal breeds, the Kansas landscape and skies, portraits and the human figure, Swedish heritage, birds (anything winged, in fact), and plays on words. She is a six-time winner in the Kansas Artists Postcard series. Her work has received more than 35 solo shows and been part of 65 group, invitational and juried exhibitions -- many in the Midwest. She has commissioned works to her credit. Before shifting to a full-time studio art career, Becker taught art in Kansas for 25 years -- privately, for arts organizations, and at all levels of formal education.

She earned her MFA from Fort Hays State University in 1999 and a bachelor's degree in art and art education in 1976 from Bethany College in Lindsborg. Becker was reared in McPherson, south of Lindsborg, and lived there as a spouse and mother of three boys in her young adult years. In the early 1970s, she began her art studies as an nontraditional student at Bethany College and moved to Lindsborg. After graduation, Becker worked as a studio artist and began regularly exhibiting her work. Sher undertook brief stints of teaching.

In the years between earning her bachelor's and MFA, Becker continued special studies --- in sculpture at Bethany College and in watercolor with Keith Crown, professor emeritus of art at the University of Southern California. While pursuing her master's degree at Fort Hays State, Becker concentrated on printmaking under the tutelage of the respected printmaker Frank Nichols, professor emeritus of art at Fort Hays State.

Becker is known for her "Smoky Valley Angels" series of linoleum cuts, launched in 1999. In each, a mythical winged creature plays a music instrument while hovering over a Smoky Valley scene, ranging from the Old Mill to local festivals. To make the "Smoky Valley Angels" and her other linoleum cuts, Becker uses a thick, flexible art linoleum once manufactured for use in battleships. Thick-handled wood-carving tools help her control the cuts. After coating the uncut portions of the linoleum with a specially mixed ink, Becker uses a table-mounted etching press to transfer the ink pattern to paper.

"Each piece of linoleum will produce about 20 prints," she said. "Then I color each print by hand. After some experimentation, I found that highly concentrated pigments usually used with air brushes create the best effect. On these particular prints, I like the more intense color."
In her work with oils, Becker is pursuing a series of paintings of "rare breeds" -- farm animals that are genetically endangered by contemporary agriculture's pressure for extreme growth and mechanized food processing. Once staples of the farm, these beautiful animals are now found only among special breeding associations, if at all. This interest has also led to experiments with pieces involving wild animals. Her approach will be to concentrate on the animal form rather than the anthropomorphic tendency to sentimentalize these creatures. A true adventurer at heart, Becker's work shows wide ranging interests -- including her semi-dangerous storm chasing. She often sketches atop Coronado Heights north of Lindsborg or in a field until the last minute before a storm rolls in.

Travel is a passion, and Becker still incorporates cultural symbols of India after having participated in a Rotary International trip there in the 1980s.

Sketching is breathing to Becker. At most Lindsborg music and vocal performances, you'll see her near the front of the house, pen dancing on pad. She often gives her work to the performers.

Meanwhile, commissioned work has been as challenging as anything Becker could invent for herself. She recently finished a mural in a San Francisco house that features people of different ethnicities taking part in a wedding feast at a Swedish country house. "The human form always has been something I've never tired of studying," Becker said. "It's a challenge to get facial structures just right."

Becker lives in Lindsborg with Alan Harlock and their menagerie of pets.

Lindsborg Arts Council

Biography from Birger Sandzen Memorial Gallery:
Lee Becker

Lee Becker was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1937, and raised in McPherson, Kansas.  Her adoptive family's interests included business, construction, and ranching.  They kept good libraries which stimulated her interests in art and reading.

She loved to draw and paint above all else and after raising three sons to middle and high school age, attended McPherson College. She earned a B.A. in Art and Art Education at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas, where she lives and maintains a studio today. 

After graduating from Bethany she took an art history study tour of London and Paris. Then she began her teaching career. She has taught in public schools and has served as an Artist-in-residence in several communities, among them Lindsborg, Winfield, Liberal, Glasco-Miltonvale schools. 

She has served as an adjunct instructor at Kansas Wesleyan University in Salina, Kansas, McPherson College, Southwestern College in Winfield and Bethany College in Lindsborg,  Other teaching involved the Arts Infusion project of the Salina Arts and Humanities, classes at the Salina Art Center, and Lindsborg Arts Council. Other projects include several Artists-in-action projects for the Smoky Hill River Festival in Salina.

Lee was a member of a team sponsored by Rotary International to India in 1997.

Traveling in South India states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu, she resided with families and studied the art, archeology of the region and compared cultural issues.

Now completing requirements for the MFA from Fort Hays State University, she plans to continue teaching and producing art.

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