Art on a Whim Gallery, in Vail, hosts mixed-media artist Kris Lee | VailDaily.com
VAIL — Kris Lee is a brave artist. It takes guts to intentionally punch glass through a nearly finished painting. Yet, this is precisely what Lee does to complete her masterfully executed works in mixed-media.
The end results of Lee's work are fascinating. Through the incorporation of glass and LED lighting Lee is able to give each original piece an entirely different appearance depending on the time of day. "I love the challenge of essentially painting two pieces simultaneously and the remarkable transformations that are possible through the addition of backlighting the canvases," Lee said.
With the lights on in the room, or a lot of natural day light, each piece is alive with hand-embossed metal, vivid acrylic paints and a plethora of texture. When the lights go down, Lee's work literally glows. The negative space in the work allows for the LED lights to shine. Broken bits of hand-blown glass act as light bulbs, which is Lee's reason for punching it through her canvases. Occasionally, she will even cut the canvas to provide both a three-dimensional effect and to allow light to shine through the folded forward parts of the painting. In a word, Lee's work is innovative.
“I am always going through the hardware store like it’s a candy shop. My studio kind of resembles a junkyard. I’m always gathering strange materials and collaging them together.” Additional materials used by Lee include precious metal clay, wax, rice paper, Raku pottery, inktense pencil, liquid copper, wire and much more. "I believe that the more materials I master, the better I am able to explore different concepts and expand my visual vocabulary to express myself," she said.
She is an expert at contrasting entirely different materials, such as deer wire and pyrite with rice paper and cyanotype on fabric. You will find all of the above in the piece Lee will be working on this weekend during her shew at the Art on a Whim gallery in Vail. The piece, titled "Fool's Gold" is 24-inches tall by 48-inches wide. "I enjoy contrasting industrial and organic materials," Lee said. "Organic forms in my work come from actual organic materials, such as rice paper, which I use to depict grasses or trees. Industrial materials, like wire, give the work a contrasting geometric form."
A recently completed piece titled, Fire and Ice, blends Lee's love of abstraction with her skill in painting realism. An icy aspen branch, constructed from rice papers, sits amongst a superbly abstracted background. Like much of her work, the piece is part sculpture, part painting and all mixed-media adventure. Hand-embossed metal shines in beautiful blue tones throughout. The metal is carved three times, twice on the front and once from the back, to create intricate swirling, textured patterns. For good measure, broken pieces of copper toned Raku pottery are included throughout the work. This complements the broken bits of glass, which shines like crystals when the light in the painting is the only light in the room. Watching the piece morph into an entirely different composition depending on the light surrounding it gives the viewer the impression that they are looking at two entirely different works of art.
Continuing her thoughts on incorporating so many unique materials within one piece, Lee says, "I am always going through the hardware store like it's a candy shop. My studio kind of resembles a junkyard. I'm always gathering strange materials and collaging them together." It is mesmerizing to see an artist move so seamlessly between materials while still expertly presenting a unified concept within each piece. Much like her materials, Lee's list of influences seems to stretch on in a unique, yet somehow obvious, collection of sources of inspiration. She lists everything from abstract expressionism, Dr. Seuss and Alexander Calder to aspen trees, oil refineries and crystal chandeliers. She muses, "Most of my work is a little playful, but in a weird way." Each of her pieces, while incredibly unique and statement making, manages to effortlessly blend into every type of interior.
Having lived in the mountains for years, it is a joy to see Lee's work lighting up Vail. Her current show at the Art on a Whim gallery features six original pieces, all created in Lee's signature mixed-media style. She will be working on her new piece (Fool's Gold) on both Friday and Saturday evenings while also discussing the work. When you visit the show, be sure to ask the gallery owners to turn off the lights. Pardon the pun; you will see the work in a whole new light.