So when was the last time you ate an entire cheesecake on your bed or box of doughnuts in the bath? Lee Price paints figurative photo-realist self portraits from a bird's-eye view that are both intriguing and obviously voyeuristic. She peels the skin off a part of women's links to food that straddles a line between being intimate and a little gross. We spoke to Lee about what drives her to create, the delicious magnetic pull of compulsive behaviour and the sensuality of nudity and food.
Cherry Cheesecake II
What's your typical creative process like? How much do you tend to have models sit for your paintings?
My paintings are all self portraits so I work strictly from photographs. Once I decide on the image, I search for the props that I will need to create the scene (buying or making what I will need). I usually take a few informal snap shots of the set up prior to the final photography session to make sure it's generally what I want. Then I bring my photographer in and we shoot until we feel that we've got what I'm looking for. This may take hundreds of shots for one scene.
There's a great element of humour to your work, that perhaps only some viewers would identify with. How much does an audience reaction factor in to what you create?
When I'm making a painting I'm not really thinking about audience reaction. I feel like my process is more instinctual than that. That that particular concern would cause me to contrive or second guess what it is that I'm trying to express. Also, I'm not concerned about the viewer taking in the information in a specific way. People see a piece of art and they react to it. They bring to it their own history/background and make interpretations from there. It's a subjective interaction.
How closely do you parallel the intimacy of eating alone, and nudity?
The setting for many of my paintings is in the bathtub. Naturally, nudity makes sense here. In some of the bed scenes I do use nudity to emphasize the private nature of the act.
What's your favourite food to eat alone in the bathtub?
To be honest, I don't think I have ever eaten food while in the tub!
How would you react to analyses of your work as a commentary on American over-consumption and endless binge culture?
I hear this analysis often, however, my intent with my subject matter is not to discuss American over-consumption per se. The paintings, on a literal (and slightly narrow) level discuss women's issues with food and compulsive eating. In a broader sense they discuss compulsive behavior in general - the distraction that's involved in the act of it, the waste (both in regard to actual material waste and to energy/time waste) that is the result of it. I do believe over-consumption is a compulsive behaviour - a behaviour that we use to "check out"; to distract ourselves from sitting with discomfort.
With such a personal activity on display, what role do you think wider society even plays in your work?
I think society plays an enormous role in regard to the aspect of my paintings that is concerned with how women relate to food. Often women are brought up to control their appetites. Not just for food but in many areas of life. We are taught to be givers, to nurture others at the expense of our own needs (in a way that men are not). I think food, for some reason, is one way we have chosen to give back to ourselves- to attempt to nurture ourselves. This, mixed with the pressure to be thin, has caused many of us to consume in secret.
Grilled Cheese II
Which fellow artists do you see as your style contemporaries and/or peers?
This is not exactly answering your question but my thoughts gravitate towards those artists that have given me inspiration, either stylistically or conceptually. My greatest influence has been Alyssa Monks. I studied with her for many years and still occasionally seek her advice and instruction when I'm having difficulties or "blocks". Other contemporary artists that inspire me include Jenny Saville, Bo Bartlett, Emily Eveleth, Carolyn Mason.
Finally, what do you hope viewers take away from your work?
I would like the paintings to instigate a contemplation on compulsive behavior. How do we distract ourselves? How often are we really present?
Lee Price is an alumna of Moore College of Art, Pennsylvania. She is currently exhibiting throughout the USA, with a November show coming up on Adelaide. To see more of her work, check out her site.