THE Magazine – Preview: Maps, Doors and Coffins: Locating Absence

The exquisitely painted oils of Katherine Lee are the maps inthis exhibition. With images of grass or empty highways at night, familiar yetsolitary, and indicative of an uninhabited space, these works take on deepermeaning when paired with the hand-crafted coffins and wooden doors Leeconstructed. The coffins—explored artistically in many cultures but not oftenby Americans, who prefer to avoid reminders of death—were made by Lee for fivefamily members. Simply painted in black and embellished with skulls andflowers, quiet, not morbid, the coffins sit next to her wood doors, which mightbe the entrances or exits to offices from the past. There is obviously a storyhere that belongs to the artist, but it can take on personal meanings forviewers. Although working in a relatively new medium, Lee is as adept at thecraft of fine woodworking as painting. That is a simple fact, but not the focusof this series of works. As telegraphed by the exhibition title, the paintings,monotypes, and doors have words on them that seem to disappear into theircompositions. The stillness within these stark spaces serves as a reference toabsence, and perhaps loss. What is occurring in the artist’s interior landscapeis hinted at, not described, but who among us cannot resonate with the grass,the doors, or the coffins that fill these poignant places? The exhibitionpromises to be one that leaves a haunting residue. Perhaps the maps tell uswhere to go, or maybe just record the comings and goings that relationships areinevitably about in all our lives.