Born in Los Angeles, California in 1947, Vietnam Era veteran Michael R. Lee worked as a fire chief for over 35 years. This may have been his job during the day, but he soon acquired a much heavier job in the evening. His daughter became ill and required medication throughout the night, and Michael became the nightly caregiver. He soon realized he needed a focus to keep himself awake, so he began to sculpt. He would work long hours almost nightly at the kitchen table and began to learn that his adventure in clay would serve a purpose beyond just staying awake; it transformed into true artistic expression that would leave on-lookers exclaiming, “Wait, that’s clay??”
Michael became fascinated with the trompe l’oeil style, French for ‘fool the eye.’ His first hyper-realistic clay sculptures - “Government Issue,” a replica of a World War II army canteen in a canvas cover, and “Hard Times,” a replica of a battered leather suitcase- won first place awards at local exhibitions and led the way to his personal style.
Always on the lookout for new subject-matter, Michael scours farmer’s markets and antique stores for the perfect models. “I like to sculpt old, beat up leather and canvas objects, such as suitcases, doctor’s bags, backpacks, boots, and leather fire helmets - artifacts of human existence. My sculptures are intended to confuse the senses, creating a gap between perception and reality.”
The Art Spirit Gallery would like to thank Emerge, a Coeur d’Alene gallery and art school, for introducing Michael Lee. To date, Lee’s work has garnered a growing list of enthusiastic followers. His trompe l’oeil sculptures are part of private collections in both the United States and Canada.