Beauty and Drama

Albuquerque Journal North
By Kate McGraw
Published October 29, 2010

Katherine Lee, a 2008 bachelor of fine arts graduate of the College of Santa Fe, says she has no “messages” to send through her art – but she is full of ideas.  Her latest group of notions, 31 drawings in pencil and other media, opens in a solo show at Eight Modern today, intriguingly titled “Animal Violence and Topless Women Eating Jam.”  It’s a change of media for Lee, whose paintings from her “Brazil Series” headlined a show at the same gallery last summer.  “She’s always been drawing and we just decided to do this show,” gallery director Jaquelin Loyd said.  “Katherine is very, very comfortable with drawing and drafting, and the mastery of her craft, the freshness of approach and the iconoclastic attitude toward artistic tropes that gave the unpeopled environments of her ‘Exterior’ paintings such affective power are still present in her drawings.”

“I’ve been a lot more curious about drawing,” Lee told the Journal, “and I guess I just drew enough drawings for a show.  It came about not super-intentionally, but I got a momentum going and just decided to see where it would take me.”  Where it took her was a group of drawings depicting, well, animal violence and topless women eating jam.  “The pairing came about from two separate strings of association that collided at some point,” Lee said.  “Topless women eating jam are charming in a guilty kind of way.  Animal violence was a phrase my brother used once, years ago, and since then I have never been able to get it out of my mind.”  There is, she added firmly, no overarching “message” involved.  “A work is successful not because of what it’s about but because of how it’s executed, said this mistress of technique.  “Nude women and violence don’t really mean anything specific to me, but I recognize that as a subject matter, they function as beauty and drama.”

The subject “just sort of popped into my head,” Lee said, as she was resting from a series of drawings of hostages.  “I was sort of waiting around,” she said.  “I’d been doing this figurative work with the hostage drawings.”  The drawings are mainly done in pencil, but the graphite is enhanced on some drawings with other media, such as gouache, construction paper and colored pencils.  There are three large drawings in which the title subjects meet, she said, but for most of the drawings the animals committing violence on each other and the women eating jam are kept separate.  The works are imbued with a kind of gruesome wit, reflecting the 25-year-old Santa Fean’s somewhat mordant outlook.

“People are nothing if not violent and naked,” Lee said.  “I am of the belief that man will never be able to transcend these aspects of himself and thus perpetuates his own disappointment and doom in trying.  Most of this work is based on the unhappy ending—you know, she dies, because she does, because life is like that.  There is a beauty in embracing that horror.  I guess I think it’s worth drawing.”

Lee was born and raised in Iowa, but lives and works now in Santa Fe.  During the past six years, she has participated in numerous group exhibitions and this is her second solo show at Eight Modern.  Eight Modern, located on Delgado Street between Alameda and Canyon Road, shows contemporary painting, sculpture and photography.  The Lee drawings will show through December 4.