Lee Nowell-Wilson (b. Easton, MD 1989) is an American figurative artist creating large scale works on paper. She earned her BFA in Painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2011, and currently lives and works in Baltimore, MD. Nowell-Wilson has participated in artist residencies with Elsewhere Studios in Paonia, CO, Stay Home Gallery in Paris, TN, Creative Paradox in Annapolis, MD, and the Street Art School in Lyon, France. In 2019, she founded MILKED, an arts publication, and within the last year her own work has featured in the Northwest Review, Our Rhythms Our Blues online zine, and Stay Home Gallery’s first publication. In 2021, her work was exhibited with Latela Curatorial and Plain Sight Gallery in Washington, D.C, and reviewed in The Washington Post.
"Lee Nowell-Wilson is an American figurative artist who builds autobiographical drawings that document the ambivalent undertones within birth, domestic labor and human relationship. Through using the maternal subject, Nowell-Wilson illuminates a detail of life that is extremely personal, yet universal. Executing this in ironic and humorous ways, she renders mundane household objects as metaphors for complex human tendencies and emotions. A pile of legos becomes a swamp of tantrums. A womb of blankets upon one’s head steals identity, while simultaneously creating a self-birthing place. Nowell-Wilson’s work investigates that tipping point — the line where the maternalistic state of being tips from something sensitive to aggressive, from a tearing tension to close connection. Equally, Nowell-Wilson’s work speaks to elements of weight, physicality, mental health and veneration."
Tell us a little about yourself and your background in the arts.
I am a Maryland native and currently based in Baltimore, MD. I have loved art since I was in first grade, and graduated with a painting degree in 2011. Creating art has always been my way of processing what I observe around me, and my work has grown to be pretty autobiographical due to that.
What kind of work are you currently making?
I am currently working predominantly with large scale works on paper, using charcoal and graphite. Most of my pieces revolve around layers and layers of the emotional undertones of mothering. I like to integrate elements of abstraction with figurative realism, exploring the picture plane and using household items to play with metaphors and analogy. Although I've been working solely with drawing for the past 4 years, I am a trained painter and am just about to make a jump back into oil painting in the next few months!
What is a day like in the studio for you?
Everyday in the studio is different for me because of balancing being a parent with my art practice. Three days a week I have 2 out of 3 kiddos in the studio with me, and two days a week it's just our 4 month old who is with me. Due to that dynamic, I try hard to jump right into things the minute we're in the studio, but I also simplify my own expectations on myself and try to stay flexible. I mostly optimize the mornings, getting into the studio at 8:30am, before the afternoon "toddler grumpiness" sets in.
What are you looking at right now and/or reading?
I am taking a deep dive back into art history before I start a new series of paintings, and am currently engrossed in a Beaux Arts Editions book titled The Impressionists and Their Legacy.
Where can we find more of your work?
Leenowellwilson.com / @leenowellwilson / two pieces currently on view at The Silva Gallery with Latela Curatorial in D.C.