MATT MARELLO: I was surprised to walk into Tricia Collins and find a large “construction” in the middle of the room, particularly since I’ve known you primarily as a painter. What brought about the transition from painting to sculpture?
LEE: I studied woodcut and printmaking in school and I like the all over quality of many woodcuts. I like the negative way of working as with prints. I use these print techniques in my painting. I think that the
“House of Seasons” is very similar to the woodgrained paintings. For example, the outside of the house is fake woodgrain and the background of many of my paintings employ faux techniques.
M: One element that occurs in both the painting and sculpture is a certain worm-marred wood unique to the area in the deep south where you grew up. What does this wood represent for you?
L: “Pecky cypress” has the connotations of travel lodges and sea food restaurants, but to me it also is like an instant abstract ground in painting. An artist could not make Pecky as interesting as it is. It also
exists in my view as hyper-woodgrain or a kind of hyper-woodcut.
M: When I visited the gallery a second time I brought along my 2 year old daughter. She had such a good time I couldn’t get her out of the House. Watching her brought back memories of the childhood tree house that my dad build for me when I was a kid growing up in the country. But another layer exists to your house, a harder, more urban element—the colored plexiglass windows, the exposed aluminum studs, the concrete faux-wood panelling. Could you talk about the synthesis of these two elements?
L: I am glad your daughter liked the experience of the house. My intention with the house is to have it be universal—a universal experience and a universal architecture. The aluminum studs and aluminum flashing are used in commercial building, cinder blocks often elevate trailors, Hardie Board siding is used in tract housing, and the pyramid form is an ancient form. Additionally, I am trying to make the house exist also as a clean minimal form (a sculpture).
M: The issues of architecture and sculpture are addressed simultaneously, and with equal weight. The work balances a “poverty of materials” approach with an “economy of materials” aesthetic. The house is
unique yet uses the materials of mass-produced housing. Balance is also reflected in the symmetry of the design. There is a Zen quality to the work. The space is personal yet there is no door. Could you talk about this?
L: While I like the idea of editioning a full size house very much, and I did make drawings and templates for this house, this house is a unique piece. I built this house around myself and within my studio and it is spare and simple for practical and aesthetic reasons. Building can be very Zen-like and very consuming. In this case, the house consumed all of my energy for six months. Because the piece is designed around how to look at nature it makes sense to me that there should be no doors, only windows.
M: What are you working on now?
L: I am making paintings again, with architectural elements as fields and with flora and fauna in the foreground (or a subject). I am also working on another structure (a pyramid) that is constructed only out of sheets of lightweight cement that I am making myself. The molds for the cement sheets is cypress, so the grain is very pronounced. Two-thirds of the lightweight cement I am making consists of recycled junk mail. Shiney and colorful junk mail has a rich clay base in the inks which makes the cement very strong. Also, I am taking photographs of my wood floors---the wood grain has the appearance of Chinese Landscape using a very wide angle lens.

Matt Marello
New York, New York