Exploring Eric Lee’s World of Miniatures

Artists, Bicycle Fine Art, Feature Article

Eric Lee in his studioBicycle Fine Art artist, Eric Lee, has always been predictably unpredictable. While his creative passion is for sculptural paintings, his day job consists of building wooden snare drums for musicians around the Eau Claire, Wisconsin area. Given the intricate designs and detailed solid wood inlays that Eric so skillfully and beautifully builds into each of his handcrafted instruments, one would never anticipate the wild, torn landscapes that are typically the subject of Eric’s paintings.

We spoke with Eric recently, because his work has taken yet another fantastic new turn. He has begun a series of miniature pieces, a shift which, while reducing the size of the canvas, opens up a much more evolved portrait of Eric as an artist.

Eric uses raw and incendiary materials (such as aluminum, wood, and plastic) and destructive processes, often lighting his canvasses on fire, all paired with fine brushstroke oil painting. They are chaotic, even violent, as though the canvas’s subject has just been destroyed, and you enter onto the scene immediately following the aftermath. Drawing from the many years living in and exploring around a port town on Lake Superior, frequently, these specific buildings, walls, and wharfs, wistfully crop up in his landscapes – reflecting something of a self-portrait; although, Eric says that he has not made an actual self-portrait in close to ten years.

Eric Lee, Lodz

Łódź, 2016
12 x 12 in.
Oil, papers, wood, circuitry, ash on canvas

The new miniatures, however, depart from these concrete locations, and open up in color, style, and creativity. In his piece, Łódź, for example, he abandons real locations for an imagined landscape, inspired by a book he was reading at the time about Łódź Ghetto during World War II. While the town of Łódź was not historically known as a harbor, Eric draws a parallel between the sense of dislocation while living in Superior, and the desperation that must have been felt by the ghetto’s inhabitants. The idea was propelled by the fact that “Łódź” in Polish translates to “boat.” As shown in the attached detail photo of the painting, you will see the abandoned pier, which, Eric says, stands waiting for “a boat which will never come.”

Eric Lee, In Broad Daylight

In Broad Daylight, 2016
12 x 12 in.
Oil, aluminum, wood, linoleum, industrial paint, cloth and resistors on canvas

In Broad Daylight similarly shows a creative freedom not previously seen in Eric’s works. It too, (like Łódź) measures 12” x 12”, and plays with color and perspective, such that the blue of the water may be read by the viewer as the sky, and a patch of green bursts through, disrupting the already turbulent scene with a hopeful burst of energy. Eric deliberately allows these components to remain open to interpretation, veering away from his previously structured scenes.

View the detail images of both paintings below.



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Lisa-Thi Beskar, Art Advisor & Curator