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 Reba K. Lee  (1959 - )

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Lived/Active: Colorado/Minnesota      Known for: abstract landscape, still life

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Ad Code: 4
Reba K Lee
An example of work by Reba K. Lee
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from Savageau Gallery:
Reba Lee intends for her paintings to glow with color, vibrate with dramatic contrasts of light and shadow, and burst forth with lively exhilaration. She sites as influences both Neo-Fauvism and Japanese sumi-e painting, although she is intent on forging a path of her own.

The term "magic realism" is apropos to her work, which both portrays the land realistically but references magic that dwells there as well.

Her aim is to capture the spirituality of the landscape, and for years her preferred medium has been pastel because the soft chalks offer intense, true color, and encourage a rapid, intuitive working method.

In 1997, she began adapting her knowledge of color and composition to oil paint. Although the two media may seem diametrically opposed, for her the oils as well as the pastels allow her to achieve broad lines that give her work a three-dimensional quality, a solidity. At first glance, we see bold slabs of color; in the next instance, the colors visually compose into form and detail. Meanwhile, the use of strong color keeps the viewer's eye in motion, adding to our impression that those clouds are roiling overhead, these trees do move in the wind, this building is pushing its foundation-roots deeper into the soil that supports it.

Based in her nineteenth-century adobe home in southern Colorado, Reba Lee works prolifically. She has centered her life around her artwork. She was born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota in 1959, but was gradually drawn to the American Southwest and has lived primarily in the region since 1983. Her path West first took her deeper into the Midwest, where she studied black ink painting - sumi-e - with master Shozo Sato at the University of Illinois at Campaign-Urbana. Although Lee's own palette is vividly full spectrum, the sensibilities of sumi-e still richly inform her work, appearing both in the range of values she captures within a single brushstroke and in the sense of infectious spontaneity pervasive in her paintings.

She says: "My paintings are like nests. You can feel at home in them."

Other than her studies with Sato during her late teens, Reba Lee is a self-taught artist, who works hard and pursues extensive observation and experimentation. Lee also voices admiration for Alyce Frank, David Barbero and Paul Shapiro, all painters of the modern New Mexican school who make vivid use of color, which is the clearest point of similarity.

But Lee's influences just as clearly point to the I Ching -- the Chinese Book of Changes -- which she has been studying for two decades. With its metaphoric use of natural phenomena and locales -- strong heaven and yielding earth, arousing thunder and dangerous waters, resting mountains and penetrating winds, light-giving fire and joyful lakes -- this ancient Chinese masterpiece provides the spiritual under painting in Lee's landscape, the genus loci made visible.

Lee certainly doesn't illustrate the I Ching but neither does she document with detached precision the landscape she inhabits. Rather, she seeks to find the joyous heart of the place, the scene, the shadow and angled sunlight, and then focuses on holding these elements just still enough in her pigments that the viewer also can see and feel it.

Text by Renna Shesso
Photography by Rhoda Pollack
Savageau Gallery: Art of Enduring Value



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