Artist of the Week: Austin Lee

Austin Lee was born in Las Vegas, NV. He is a graduate of Tyler School of Art and is currently studying at Yale School of Art in New Haven, CT. He showed his paintings in New York City for the first time last year in the “Virgins Show” curated by Marilyn Minter at Family Business Gallery.

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What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? I took a digital animation class with Johannes DeYoung  last year and it helped me become more comfortable with 3D modeling. I thought it would help with my painting but I ended up making a lot of sculptures instead. I love when new tools and techniques can take you in a direction you weren’t planning.

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What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like? I usually start with a digital drawing on my iPad. I think of it as an infinite sketchbook. If the drawing is worth exploring further I will make a painting with the drawing as the starting point. I mostly use acrylic paint but I try to use whatever the painting insists on. If it goes well something magical happens during the translation and I end up with something worth looking at.

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How has your work developed within the past year? I have started to embrace my mistakes.  Accidents can become “eurekas” and get me to places I couldn’t think of.

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How did your interest in art begin? One of my earliest memories is drawing a horse in grade school. I remember the other kids liked it and that made me feel good. Since one of my most recent memories is painting a horse in grad school I guess things haven’t changed too much.

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Can you share one of the best or worst reactions you have gotten as a result of your work? The best and worst reaction was the same instance. I had an artwork vandalized but I thought it was great because it proved that at least one person saw it. It happened during an alumni sculpture show for my undergraduate college. My proposal was to make unplanned work during the installation responding to the gallery space. One of the things I made was a tiny painting that I put into a dark corner. I liked the idea of sneaking a painting into the sculpture show. It was hard to even see the painting so I was surprised when I stopped by the gallery and noticed someone had written on the piece. I made a little sign letting people know that the words were added and put it next to it. The artwork in the show was insured but I didn’t get any insurance money because I initially wrote priceless as the value. Before the opening and before the piece was vandalized I was contacted by the school because “priceless” is not an acceptable response. They asked me to change it. Together we decided the work I had not yet made was worth 0 dollars.

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What artists are you interested in right now? Recently: Laura OwensJeff ElrodLlyn FoulkesAnoka FaruqeeDeb KassStephen PowersWendy WhiteJacob LawrenceAlways: Stanley WhitneyDavid HumphreyMarilyn MinterJohn WesleyFrank BramblettDona NelsonDavid HockneyMatisse Inspiring Friends: Paul DeMuroAndrew BrischlerDustin MetzKati GegenheimerMark GibsonKatrina MortorffJohn Szlasa

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How has living in New Haven affected your art practice? I moved to New Haven for school and it has been an amazing place to focus on painting. I have met a lot of people here that I know will be lifelong friends and met many of my painting heroes.

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What’s your favorite thing about your city? Whenever someone visits, we go to the Beinecke rare book library, Yale Art Museum and then Frank Pepe’s pizza. Having great art so close by has allowed me to spend time with specific pieces and get to know them. One of my favorite artworks that I found here is a sculpture called Last Gasp by Robert Arneson.

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What do you do when you’re not working on art? I try and fail to play music. The problem I seem to be having is that it takes a lot of dedication and painting always seems to win that battle.

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Favorite music? I love all types of music and I am always looking for new things to listen to. If anyone has any suggestions go to my spotify account.

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