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UMFK Blake Library to host art, science illustration and illumination exhibit

August 6, 2004


The University of Maine at Fort Kent will host an exhibit of art work, science illustration, and illumination entitled "Explorations" by Joan H. Lee in the Blake Library Gallery from August 20 to September 16.

One part of the exhibit shows some of the tools and techniques for making illuminations. Illumination is a decorative art in which gold is used as one of the elements in a composition.

Dating from very early times, illumination achieved its highest form in the late Middle Ages, and since then has enjoyed small revivals from time to time.

"Always interested in the beauty of these decorated pages, especially religious prayer books and books of hours, I became fascinated on seeing what some contemporary illuminators are doing in Paris," said Lee. "It is a demanding technique that requires a lot of patience and practice, and, a little like Hokusai, I expect to master it 'by my ninetieth birthday'."

Also on display are some of the tools of the trade for making natural science drawings. Natural Science Illustration is usually defined as "art in the service of science."

Natural science illustrators, setting all artistic ego aside, work closely with the scientists. The discipline is solidly grounded in the observable physical environment, even at those times that it is describing the theoretical. It uses rigorous established methods that are universally understood by scientists. It demands accuracy and precision. There is no room for artistic license although, if done with sensitivity, science illustration can be enjoyed on an aesthetic level.

Lee works in the disciplines of botanical, archeological, and anthropological science illustration. She also conducts workshops for adults in beginning and advanced botanical and nature drawing and painting.

"It is so much fun to see someone who has said they can't draw hold up a beautiful plant portrait that they did themselves," Lee added. "To achieve that, they have learned how to use a few techniques from science illustration."

If science illustration is firmly rooted in the observable environment, fine art or expressive art has but one goal: it reaches out its arms to truth. Successful expressive art is not filtered through someone else's conventions, it does not look to authorities, and it never asks permission. It explores human emotions and is as serious, profound, irreverent or lighthearted as it needs to be. The expressive artist tries to work honestly with materials and subjects.

"Explorations" reflects one journey through life, and explores toil, fear, delight, objects, history and more in visual ways.

Lee was educated at Roosevelt University in Chicago where she received a bachelor of arts in English and was involved in masters work in comparative Literature. She received a certificate in law for community developers from John Marshall Law School, and studied publishing at University of Chicago.

She studied science illustration at Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, and art (life drawing) at Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, and lithography at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

"I have been an artist and writer my entire life," said Lee. "When I was a child and people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up it was such an odd question. I simply knew I was an artist."

Lee has exhibited in national juried competitions and in solo exhibits, including New Mexico State Museum, Philbrook, National Wildlife Federation in Arlington, Virginia, Fairbanks Museum in Vermont, and Denver Botanic Gardens in Colorado.

Judson College in Illinois made a purchase award of one of her watercolors. She has done illustrations for DePaul University and Loyola University in Chicago, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Audubon Society, and others.

The exhibit may be viewed during regular library hours. The exhibit is free and open to the public. For information regarding the exhibit at UMFK's Blake Gallery, call Sofia Birden, gallery curator at 834-7527.