Jocelyn Lee ‘The Appearance of Things’

Born in 1962 in Naples, Italy, Jocelyn Lee studied philosophy and visual arts at Yale University, and achieved an MFA in photography from Hunter College, followed by a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2001 and a NYFA Fellowship in 2013. Throughout her photographic career, Lee has utilised portraiture as a tool to explore the tactile qualities of the living world. Her richly descriptive colour works emphasise the tonal and textural richness of foliage, fabrics and flesh.

Lee’s most recent series The Appearance of Things continues her ongoing examination of the physical world. Driven by existential themes, the works in the series reflect on sexuality, death, nature and aging. The series was mainly photographed in Maine, New England, where Lee moved to after living in Brooklyn, New York. Not solely focusing on still life, portraiture, or landscape photography, the works engage with and blur the lines of multiple genres.

The subjects of Lee’s photographs fluctuate between objects, people, and landscapes. Most from this series are of nude models, but one of the works, Dark Matter #3, Wedding Flowers (2015), focuses only on faded flowers floating in water. In contrast to her often highly thought-through portraits, Lee describes her experimental approach to this photograph as intuitive and spontaneous, and said of the flowers, “These were bodies just like human bodies that went through decay and weightlessness.” After her wedding day, Lee did not want to get rid of her wedding flowers, so she floated them in a large tub of water in her garden. She left them there for a long period of time, and experienced their change and decay depending on the light and warmth of the environment. This act of preservation highlights Lee’s process of photographing. She uses a heavy, traditional camera and a tripod to create both her portraits and still lives, culminating in a very slow process which she embraces as a pause from contemporary fast-paced, everyday life: “For me, photography began as a way to slow the world down, it’s a very contemplative medium to me.”

In The Appearance of Things, genres, compositions and subjects are creatively juxtaposed and merged to create philosophical images of ethereal beauty.



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