Western Nevada College’s Main gallery in Carson City is hosting an entirely fresh new series of paintings by artist Wes Lee. Wes is a long-term Nevada resident, living in the historic Riverside Artist Lofts in the heart of Reno. This latest series reflects a loosening up of style and control. Using a modified mono-type technique, Lee allows watercolor paints to run in semi-controlled random pathways. Lee’s choice of heavy cotton art paper is faintly pastel in tone, on which he masterfully manipulates monotype liquid pigment runs with subtle mixtures of color to form a foundation for his drawing. It resembles one side of a Rorschach test but is in reality the first steps in a process of memory retrieval, something to move the imagination and initiate a tale.
Once these monotype bases are dry, Lee allows his imagination free reign to create and illustrate the surrealistic situations and worlds which reference his own story, where gravity and water have some rather different laws. Lee then draws into the monotype using the organic shapes to inform initial visualization for the creation of his characters, the line-work is intuitive and full of character while he deftly constructs his intensely narrative visions.
Having watched Lee’s progress with these works from their earliest conception, it has been an astonishing full fresh air inhale and exhale, a leap from his earlier work, which is painstaking and beautifully executed, but is missing some of the dynamism seen in these new works. The earlier work sometimes gets tied up with figurative ideas and female stereotypes which I believe have been worked through and have now lead to such magical new developments.
This show opened new doors in the imagination of not only Wes Lee but of his viewers who all went on journeys from his individual worlds made visible. Personal reviews from visitors to the gallery were of heartfelt pleasure as they recounted which stories resonated with them.
Looking forward to where Wes Lee takes his next series of works.
Collectors ... now is the moment!
Exhibition review by Frances Melhop
"521 Days" by Wes Lee
As a boy I logged countless hours on my Uncle’s 26 footer out of Long Beach.
He disappeared one night, never made it back to shore.
Even then, I knew we all needed to get away from something. Sailing was his way.
I became a file clerk in San Francisco. Downtown. The financial district. It paid the rent. Fed my belly. Not my dreams. But I got by. Every year I got by. On breaks and at lunch I read. I thought that was all I was doing, reading. But looking back I realize it was more like searching, remembering.
Adventure books, travels on the open sea, and stories of exotic islands. Captain Ahab, James Cook, Davy Jones. I began to hear their voices calling out to me. One night, it was my Uncle’s voice, “Life is a daring adventure, or nothing at all. Life is a daring adven.......”
When I woke the next morning, I knew.
I needed a boat.
I decided to build one. Bought a kit from a mail-order catalogue for adventurers.
Seven years I spent nights and weekends building my own 22’ sailboat. A trailable off-shore cruiser with double sail and cabin. Lunch breaks and late nights I studied open sea navigation and survival strategies, learned latitudes and longitudes, constellations and ocean currents, edible island crabs and the best methods for gutting exotic fish.
I began stocking the supplies I would need; maps, compass, knife, Kevlar rope - 3 eighths & quarter inch, 12 rolls of duct tape, 10 sketchbooks, a box of drawing pencils, 8 favorite paint brushes, 2 sets of watercolor paints, a palette, reference books including: Rich Johnson’s Guide to Sea Survival: How to Avoid Trouble and How to Live Through Trouble You Can’t Avoid, a six-gallon water tank, a Spectra Cape Horn Watermaker, 10 vacuum-packed bags of oatmeal, 48 bags of almonds, powdered eggs, canned meats, dehydrated potatoes, a microfiber-filled sleeping bag and 2 canvas tarps.
Years, I worked as a file clerk in San Francisco. Downtown. The financial district. It paid the rent. I got by. Every year I got by.
A boat, an expedition, changed everything.