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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Masters

The Masters by Niki Lee

Lee completed this piece in 2000. It was first hung in a group show in Emeryville California. During the preview week she received a phone call telling her the painting had been removed. If she wanted to pick it up, she had an hour.

She found a transport vehicle, made her way across the Bay Bridge, and found the painting (an 8 foot door, with hinges), leaning face forward against the wall in the hall. Further down the corridor, she found another. She picked them up and drove away.

Eight years later she received an email from an interior designer who wanted to purchase some work and commission more. One of the pieces she wanted to purchase, outright, was the Masters. They were going to hang it in the poker room at a Casino. Lee thought it was strangely perfect. But was concerned, given the strong reaction to the piece in the past. She sent the designer a detailed explanation: "It's a rough painting, on a door, there are hinges on the side. I am making a strong statement." Then she sent additional detailed images (also available at her website, where the designer had seen the work and selected it for the project).

The designer confirmed. This was the one, along with House For Red Horses. The remaining paintings she would submit sketches for approval, before completing.

Lee sketched, submitted and completed the project. She had the paintings crated and sent off.

When they arrived she received a phone call from the designer. "How could she send that, that, thing. It's violent. There's a picture of a penis with blood coming out of it." The designer continued, telling her that the clients were disgusted and could not believe she would do that.

Lee told her, she (the designer) selected it herself. She reminded her (the designer) that she (Lee) even sent additional photos to confirm the selection.

Whatever. "They could never use this."

Lee told them to ship it back and she'd give them anything else they'd like that she already had made. This initiated an exchanged of images and a final selection. All she had to do was wait for the painting to return.

The accusations were devastating; weathering the shame and hate slung across the wire in the designer's tone of voice and the content of her words broke the artist. Those who create work will understand how profoundly disturbing this experience is, especially when, if, you face the next piece. How do you face it alone, without the echo?

The crate arrived days later.

Subsequently the painting hung in the back room of a large group show at SOMARTS (From the Four Directions).

Currently the painting sits in a crate, looking for a home. The fiscal challenges the artist has faced are well documented: loss of studio, loss of storage and now loss of home (apartment). She is hoping to save this piece.

The Masters is part of the artist's NIKIL work--defiantly claiming space for folks, for women and for the Gods of these homelands (and those that came over during Middle Passage). This work has inspired Urban Nizhóní.

If you are interested in this piece, or can help locate a home for it, soon. Please email me at this blog.

About Me

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I believe we can be more beautiful than broken. Devotion to language and literature, stories and storytelling, writing and reading will restore humanity and heal severed relations. There is no alibi in being.