DEMING, WASH. – Whatcom County artist Rae Ellen Lee has lived many places and had many adventures in her life, but she always seems to find a home at the library. She says, “When I visit the library, it’s like I’m visiting a friend.” This connection makes the Deming Library the perfect place to host Lee’s next solo art exhibit, which opens Wednesday, June 12, 2019, in the meeting room at the library, 5044 Mt. Baker Highway, Deming, Wash.
According to the artist, her acrylic mixed-media work features “colorful trees, llamas, plants, nature, Mt. Baker and more.” She hopes that the bright colors, whimsical nature and storytelling characteristics of her artwork will engage library visitors.
Lee has explored a variety of art forms throughout her life and career. Professionally, she was a landscape architect who worked for the National Forest Service, including the Idaho Panhandle, Nez Perce, Gallatin and Helena National Forests. Today, this self-described tomboy continues to be influenced by her love of nature. She enjoys incorporating trees, plants, birds and other animals into her artwork.
Having grown up in land-locked Idaho, the idea of living on the water once appealed to Lee, who planned to live the life of a sailor after retiring from her work with the National Forest Service. She and her husband purchased a boat to live aboard. It is during this time in 1997, that Lee moved to Bellingham for the first time, where she docked her boat for four years and started to get to know the writing and art community. She discovered that she didn’t enjoy being at sea and away from seeing landscapes.
Lee’s adventures took her to St. Johns in the Virgin Islands, where she ran a retail shop, and to the desert mountains of Utah, where she still returns annually to attend the Escalante Canyons Art Festival. In addition to traveling, Lee has also tried her hand at writing and has published several books, including I Only Cuss When I’m Sailing and Cheating the Hog: A Sawmill. A Tragedy. A Few Gutsy Women, which is available to check out through the Whatcom County Library System.
It is while in Escalante, Utah, that Lee started experimenting with mixed-media collage and developed her current style of acrylic mixed-media. She enjoys using old letters, sheet music, junk mail, cereal and sardine boxes and other items in her work. “Old letters and magazines can lend messages to your creations,” Lee says. The collage process also adds texture to the paintings. Pointing to a place where the words show through the acrylic paint on one of her 3-D creations she calls windowsill boxes, Lee adds, “I think it makes it more interesting to look at.”
In addition to the exhibit of her work at the Deming Library, Lee will be teaching a free workshop called “Windowsill Art,” which shows participants how to layer papers on recycled boxes to create the base of their painted boxes. Lee explains that the colorful boxes are perfect for displaying on a windowsill. The workshop will be 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Saturday, June 15. Space is limited; registration is required. Register online at wcls.org through the event calendar, or by calling the Deming Library at 360-592-2422. The workshop is open to adults and teens (children 8 and older are welcome, if accompanied by an adult who can help them with their project).
The exhibit of Rae Ellen Lee’s work will be on display Wednesday, June 12 through Saturday, July 20. It is free and open to the public during regular business hours (Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.–8 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; and Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.). The Deming Library is located at 5044 Mt. Baker Highway in Deming, Wash., (360) 592-2422.
About the Whatcom County Library System
For 75 years, Whatcom County Library System (WCLS) has been sharing stories and connecting residents with information, ideas, and community. WCLS circulates more than 2 million items annually through 10 branches, the bookmobile, and a Library Express location on Northwest Drive. Residents have access to WCLS’s rich and curated collection of books in print and digital formats, music and movies, online digital services, fun events for every age, and public meeting spaces. Visit in person or online at WCLS.org.