Lily Martina Lee

The Shroud of Shafter Jane Doe
Photo credit: Carrie Quinney

My work is a contemporary portrait of the American West, stripped of idealization and steeped in idiosyncrasies and paradox. Employing labor-intensive processes from weaving to metal fabrication, I make work that looks beyond the natural beauty of the West to a thematic space in which litter laws, fugitives, bikini baristas, motor vehicles and labor industries constitute the American landscape.

I approach my subject matter by researching legal documents. From most wanted postings to standard technical specifications, the dry language leads me to contemplate how the raw material of living is represented and defined. I am fascinated by the paradox in which the overly specific becomes absurd, and fails to represent what it describes in detail.

I avoid materials that I consider to be wholesome, working instead with media that carries a more contested identity: things that are cosmetic, decorative, cheap, and vulgar, such as synthetic fibers, glass beads and automotive accessories. My work asserts the relevance of the ignoble, idiosyncratic and unconventional bricolage that makes up contemporary life in the Northwest suggesting that these realities are every bit as critical and endearing a part of the region’s history, development, and identity as the vast natural wonders that have symbolized the region for so long.