LEE’S GARDEN AND MORGAN’S LANDSCAPES INSPIRE TWO ART EXHIBITS IN LAWTON
LAWTON – Some gardens generate much more than flowers or produce. Some are to be experienced, creating lifelong impressions in their visitors.
Oklahoma’s foremost art historian, Cecil Lee, brings his love of gardens to life in a new exhibition at the Leslie Powell Gallery in Lawton beginning Sept. 13. Lee directs the USAO Gallery in Chickasha after decades of teaching art history at the University of Oklahoma.
A separate show featuring the work of landscape painter Patti Morgan of Chickasha opens on the same day at the Powell Gallery. Both shows will open with a reception, with refreshments, from 7-9 p.m. Admission is free.
Both artists are tied to the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, where Lee joined the faculty in 1991 and Morgan graduated in 1999.
Lee’s “An Oklahoma Garden” features photography from his one-acre garden inspired by the years he and his family spent near Rome while he taught in the Academia della Arte. His idea of what a garden was, which began as a child in northern Ohio, became more like a work of art when he saw it cascaded down an Italian hillside.
“Sadly, in our culture, design has been mainly seen as a component of advertising art,” Lee said. “Then it occurred to me that by combining these several directions I might have a direction to follow. Monet had laid out gardens with the sole intent of painting them. My garden was already in place. Unlike the painter who visits someone else’s garden, or even a pleasing natural site, it was my design, and it was an art statement in itself. It was already art.”
His Norman replica is his own work of art, and it is featured through the medium of real and digitally enhanced photography.
Lee first tasted garden life as a child.
“We always had a large vegetable garden,” he recalled. “We were a large family, dependent on canning and storing food for the long winters of northern Ohio. … During the Korean War, I was assigned to the Sixth Army Headquarters at the Presidio of San Francisco. This was my first experience of actually living in a garden. That is, a garden designed to be experienced rather than to provide food or cut flowers. My army years were followed by formal studies in art history and art theory. My specialty was Eighteenth Century British taste, and I became acquainted the great English landscape artists of the late baroque.
“In the early sixties I spent a summer conducting a class in baroque art in the Academia della Arte, Rome. My family and I stayed at a convent on one of the several hills of Rome. Here we relaxed evenings in the cloistered garden with our two pre-school daughters.”
Like the lavish gardens he visited, Lee and his wife, artist Dolly Lee, planned their own elaborate landscape garden in Norman.
Lee’s photography exhibit explores both the natural – from his garden – and the imagination, from his computer. Following art trends in the last century that see art more as an idea than a skill, Lee’s exhibition also features digitally enhanced abstract works from his inventive mind.
“Everything in this exhibition comes originally from either a one acre spot of Oklahoma or from the mysterious realm of that now not uncommon domestic machine we call the personal computer.”
Morgan’s show, “Repurpose,” was developed by traveling life’s road.
“Working in my studio affords the solitude to reflect upon my observations of nature,” Morgan said. “From my photographs and sketches I plan compositions that sometimes combine locations or distort the horizon. The interactions of color and texture make the paintings come alive and capture a perception of place.”
Morgan’s artistic expression, like Lee’s, involves experiencing the subject.
“The images of my oil paintings are derived from flying over, driving through and being in the landscape,” Morgan said. “I am inspired by the land’s pattern, texture, and color and find the experience a respite from contemporary life. In contrast, the imagery of my mixed media collages is derived from an inward journey. It is a result of combining portions of earlier drawings, prints, and paintings. These repurposed works are cut or torn apart, edited and adhered to various support materials. The collage components are arranged in regard to proportion, color, shape and texture; often in a grid formation. The process of imposing order upon these altered artworks results in a reconciled vision.”
Both exhibits will remain open through the third week of October. Besides this special evening opening, the Leslie Powell Gallery is open from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.