Lee Deigaard is one of the first artists I found for Fair Folks & a Goat New Orleans, and I absolutely adore her work. As an animal lover myself, any artist that makes animals the subject of their creations immediately has my attention, and Lee’s thoughtful approach to her subject matter is apparent in her beautifully nuanced portraits. Below she shares some thoughts on her process, and states what is easily the most spectacular thing I’ve heard in weeks:
I am dying to finger paint, perhaps while sitting on a tree branch, with an artistically inclined orangutan.
What’s inspiring your work these days?
A number of long term interests continue to sustain me. The perceptual experience of being among trees, in the woods. Sagacious creatures. I want my art to reveal animals’ autonomy. I know that many animals don’t have time or interest for art (some do) and that to make art about animals necessarily includes human filters and human solipsism. I don’t want to use animal imagery for only decorative or allegorical purposes.
Portraits, by their nature collaborative, are particularly so when taken at night. The subjects of my nocturnal portraits are the animals who choose to look back, through the camera lens. I don’t want my art to objectify but rather to amplify awareness of the animal other. I think a lot about hybrid nature and our partial and imperfect understanding of one another.
The way I look at trees is animist. I think of them as portrait subjects, as artistic agents drawing and redrawing their reciprocal selves in shadows on the ground. To me, trees seem reassuringly fixed and immutable but at the same time are complex series of ephemeral sensation, more air than wood.
What is your greatest challenge as an artist?
Connecting my head full of scattershot ideas to the practical proclivities of my hands. The hands want it one way, the mind another; it can be a contentious partnership, distinguishing which of my curiosities and intellectual explorations are fodder and which diversions. I am sort of a conceptual process-based artist. I imagine it is more comfortable to be one or the other.
If you could collaborate with any artist living or dead, who would it be?
I am dying to finger paint, perhaps while sitting on a tree branch, with an artistically inclined orangutan. I am equally desirous, and would be unable to choose if forced to, of sharing an easel with a painting elephant named Nom Chok.
What is the quality you are most attracted to in art?
A feeling of authenticity where process and intention are interconnected.
I do not like it when all the rough edges are smoothed away.
What is your most prized possession?
I rely on material objects to cue spatial and emotional memories; I am hard-pressed to choose one item. But I am particularly fond of an audio recording, snatched while half-asleep, of my three dogs harmonizing with a passing train and the yips of distant coyotes.
Lee in her element: