Hattie Lee is a multi-disciplinary artist who grew up on the plains in Southwest Kansas, and now lives in Peoria, Illinois. She has a BA in graphic design from Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas, an MA with an emphasis in painting, and is an MFA candidate at Bradley University for Spring 2021. She has been the Campus Artwork Project Coordinator for her Graduate Assistantship, as well as a Gallery Assistant during her career at Bradley University.
As a registered member of the Cherokee Nation she is influenced by her Great Grandmother’s heritage and stories, and desires to continue that legacy in her family. Lee spent three years living in Thailand and traveling to various countries while working with a non-profit organization on their fine art and media team. This experience gave her the opportunity to interact and learn from many people groups and tribes in Asia. Multicultural relationships, interactions, and appreciation are a large part of her creative energy and motivation.
Histories on many spectrums—ancestral, artistic, material, personal, and cultural—fuel my practice.
My studio is a flux of mediums and objects in constant conversation with each other:
A small original gouache painting gets printed on custom fabric, which goes into a mixed media collage, that informs a piece of wearable art, or adds to the composition of a new gouache painting. Nothing is off-limits to being repurposed and reimagined.
As a member of the Cherokee Nation, this process is a personal narrative of the Native American Diaspora. Indigenous peoples had to be inventive and purposeful with elements and resources as ancestors were removed from native homelands to new environments. This is not only instilled in my mind from native ancestry, but also from a rural Kansas upbringing.
As a product of Cherokee, Scottish, Swiss-German, and other diaspora, I am, in the very makeup of my DNA, a collage of cultures, values, histories, and personal aesthetics. I react by collaging materials from my ancestors, contemporary community, and personal life experiences. Graphic design, fine art, and fiber are all woven into my ancestral tapestry the same way I weave in and out of mediums in my studio. Sometimes, literally weaving materials.
I illustrate personal narratives by inventing compositions driven by a theme or experience, translating them through the lens of abstracted patterns I’ve built out of my cultural research of Cherokee and other native arts. These personal illustrations are a hybrid of being culturally grounded, while also being far from native upbringing; a life influenced by various sources to the point of abstraction. There is a feel of beadwork or sewing, but the painting may contain neither. I view each piece I create as its own individual entity, yet all contributing to a visual language I am inventing. An aesthetic world that people of many cultural backgrounds can relate to or appreciate in some form.
Sometimes my compositions are cropped. These flow from me instinctively; yet, when I contemplate where it is coming from, I see my subconscious expressing core feelings that the people in my life, at any given time, only see one part of me. One part of my surroundings. One part of my heritage, upbringing, or expat experiences. There is not one individual in my world who has seen my life influences holistically, or even every house I’ve lived in. Cropped images feel like a cropping of a piece of culture- ambiguous but beautiful; informed by elements unseen. I am a woman who is constantly picking which cropped piece of my life I’m operating out of, while still trying to maintain them all and present myself to the world as a whole.
I desire my art to open conversations and be a starting point to discussing tribes, Native Americans past and present, and the many nuances of being descended from Native cultures in a world growing increasingly diverse in numerous ways with every generation. For myself, this also includes my time in Southeast Asia and friendships I’ve made globally.
Cultivating and presenting a joy of cultural differences, influences, and histories allows hope to exist for where we might go in regards to tribes, countries, and personal communities in the future.