Lee Bontecou

 

The Influence of Lee Bontecou

In 2005, my mom was always in the hospital. She had the good taste to go to Northwestern on the Northside of Chicago, spitting distance from The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Lee Bontecou’s retrospective was exhibited while I was there. She influenced my drawings for the next 10 years.

I ran a marine canvas shop for ten years in the ’80s in Florida. I made metal structures for yachts and covered them with canvas. The shop was called “Watercolors.” Bontecou’s metal structures lured me to a maker’s heaven.

This was a vast retrospective almost filling the entire museum. Bontecou has no boundaries. She draws, paints, sculpts, welds, and makes mobiles of her inspirations. I identified with her wall constructions, inviting you into a vast hole—each one cleverly composed and beautifully finished.

Her drawings were vestiges of the late ’50s and ’60s when we contemplated total destruction from war machines. She cleverly mixed images urging you to feel the intensity of the times. Her graphite and charcoal drawings were my greatest inspiration.

She makes sculpture out of plastic because that is the material she needs to convey her ideas. Nature forms in plastic. Opposing forces. Natural and synthetic. She makes incredible shapes out of porcelain and blends them with copper mesh and rods to take the rhythms of her other work to space. I was in awe of her craft and the intelligence that put it together.

 

 

I then made my first drawing, “Open Heart.” Mom had to decide between open heart surgery and colon cancer surgery. It was atough couple of years. At that time, to do open-heart surgery, the rib cage had to be opened. The surgical procedure has become much less invasive with modern medicine. I am the oldest of five, so we all were contemplating our own mortality too.

Open Heart combined the natural forms of nature that reminded me of rib cages and heart-like shapes. I thought of how hard it is to be a single mom and the struggle between a mother and a daughter. How we all want to break out of the bond of ribs. We were so much a part of each other.

 

 

OPEN-HEART-graphite-drawing-by-artist-Elizabeth-Reed-about-open-hearts-and-nature Open Heart
2006
39 x 31″ framed
Graphite on 300 lb. paper

Here is the struggle between structure and the spirit; mother and daughter. The wing and leaf are free to fly. The caged hearts are anxious to be freed.This drawing was made during my mom’s open heart surgery. The incredible surgeon opened her ribs and repaired the structure that held her life. The illusive spirit is dependent on it’s structure yet it strives to escape. Similar to the relationship between a daughter and a mother.

Practicing for Nyeopi in Bali

"Art hurts,

art urges voyages,

and it is easier to stay home."

Gwendolyn Brooks

 

 

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