The Paintings of Lee Price: Food, Desire & the Pursuit of Joy

Text by Katrina Mohn, Art Editor

Lee Price examines food as liberator, crutch, drug, and nourishment. The relationship between women and their sources of sustenance is often fraught with guilt, desire, need and the moralization of that which keeps us alive. Lee Price’s paintings ask: What is it that truly nourishes us, and how honest can we be about the size of our hunger?


Happy Meal

Happy Meal, (2010-2012), oil on linen, 40” x 64.”

The work provokes feelings of compulsivity and uncontrolled desire. Placid scenes of relaxation — tangled in sheets, submerged in a soothing bath, highlight the sometimes violent consumption in which the subjects engage.



Sunday (2010-2012) oil on linen, 48” x 60.”

Even what appears to be mindless nibbling — a bite here, a torn corner there, piles of food remaining untouched — doesn’t speak to pickiness but rather an unfocused attempt to consume everything all at once.



Refuge, (2007-2009), oil on linen, 44” x 64.”

The artist’s aerial approach provokes both an out-of-body experience, and a voyeuristic view of the women in their most private moments. Hiding amongst piles of junk, half-eaten donuts, spilled milk and cereal. The woman alone is not concerned with tidiness, but a frantic consumption. However, the repeated perspective does not always lend itself to a purely voyeuristic angle. The prone figures, painted directly from above, sometimes open their eyes and stare, half-lidded, directly at the viewer. They are non-confrontational, unconcerned with their acts of consumption. Their minds and appetites are elsewhere; their gaze, unworried.


Ice Cream II

Ice Cream II, (2010-2012), oil on linen, 32” x 65.”

The push-pull of illness and self care runs throughout Price’s paintings. Acts meant to nourish — seeking comfort foods, finding the escape of a bed or bathtub, whether nude or clad in pajamas — are turned into public displays of desperation and private disorder. What begins as an essential human need to eat spirals into over-indulgence, binging, and at times, addiction.


LemonSlices II

Lemon Slices II, (2014-2015), oil on linen, 34” x 76.”

These women are on a quest, searching for an anesthetic to usher in moments of ephemeral pleasure. They are, as the artist says “seeking a place of solace. They are looking for a re-acquaintance with joy. They are seeking the lusciousness of life…”, perhaps, as many of us are.

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