Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Dr. Amy Freeman Lee: Artist, Educator, Experimenter

Amy Freeman Lee
Amy Freeman Lee lived in San Antonio, Texas, nearly her entire life. Freeman was a well-known and beloved Texas writer, artist, and lecturer. She has been represented in 1,253 national and international exhibitions, given 2,960 lectures and authored 255 publications. 

Amy Freeman was born to Julia Freeman and Joe Novich and she spent her early years in Seguin, Texas.  After her mother's death during the 1918 flu pandemic, she was legally adopted by her grandmother, Emma Freeman. In 1929 the family moved to San Antonio to enroll her in St. Mary's Hall from which she graduated in 1931, followed by special studies at the University of Texas in Austin. Lee attended Incarnate Word College in San Antonio and served as an assistant to the head of the English Department during the years of her attendance (1934-1942). Lee was married for several years to Ernest R. Lee an aide to General Dwight D. Eisenhower during World War II, and she worked as an art critic for the San Antonio Press during that time. A Quaker by choice, she described her spiritual convictions as based in the concept of reverence for the unity of life.

After Lee began to paint seriously in 1945, she became staff critic on radio show for station KONO, analyzing music, art, literature, and other cultural activities. From that time until her passing, Lee continued her career as a painter and sculptor, lecturer, judge at art exhibitions, and author.

Amy Freeman Lee
Dark Forest
ca 1949
Oil on canvas
30 x 36 inches
As an artist, Lee's style evolved from traditional realism to various forms of non-objective art (but not abstract expressionism), and she produced watercolors of western scenes during the 1940s and early 1950s. Half of the works shown at her first one-person exhibition in San Antonio were of Texas subjects, among them were paintings done at El Rancho de los Hombres Libres, the family ranch near San Marcos and scenes in and around San Antonio, San Geronimo and Bandera.

Amy Freeman Lee
Twilight Image
ca 1955
12 x 9 inches
Ink on paper
Lee was widely exhibited and collected. Her work was shown from Maine, where she summered for many years, to Monterrey, Mexico, where she developed many lifelong friends. Lee supported literacy efforts and was a champion of the liberal arts. She delivered lectures to groups throughout the nation, sometimes traveling as far as New York or California to share her belief in the importance of art, civility, humane ethics and universal love. Her self-deprecating humor and wit allowed for lively presentations, and she remained among the most popular speakers in the state, even in later years when bouts of illness slowed her in the years prior to her death.

Amy Freeman Lee
Dawn Silence
ca n.d.
11.5 x 17 inches
As a respected artist, art critic, poet writer and philanthropist, Lee numbered many distinguished artists among her close friends, including renowned Texas painter Kelly Fearing and essayist Loren Eisley, whose parable The Star Thrower, Lee often cited in lectures and in her written work. Lee was an early supporter of the Witte Museum in San Antonio and a founder of the San Antonio Art League, later, a founder of the Texas Watercolor Society.

Amy Freeman Lee
Autumn Harps
ca. n.d.
13 x 10 inches
Lee received numerous awards including the Ford Motor Company Lifetime Achievement Award, the J.C. Penney Spirit of the American Woman and the International Women’s Forum’s The Woman Who Made A Difference Award. Lee was a member of the International Art Critics Association in Paris, France, and a charter member of the Advisory Council for the College of Fine Arts at the University of Texas at Austin. She was also a National Trustee and National Secretary of the Humane Society of the United States.
Lee's life was spent as an artist in service to the arts, education, and humanitarianism. In thousands of public lectures, she routinely credited her grandmother for instilling in her an abiding commitment to give back to others the gifts she received early in life. Those who were closest to her will never forget her characteristic sign-off: "I'm loving you."
Amy Freeman Lee
Private Life of Plants Series: Mystical Geometry
ca n.d.
Mixed media
30.37 x 24.37 inches
Amy Freeman Lee died peacefully, surrounded by close friends, at the age of 89.
An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West, Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick, University of Texas Press, Austin, p.185-186
Texas Women's University, Texas Women's Hall of Fame, http://www.twu.edu/twhf/tw-lee.asp, retrieved October 28, 2014
Images: Artnet, Amy Freeman Lee, http://www.artnet.com/artists/amy-freeman-lee/past-auction-results, retrieved October 28, 2014
AskArt: The Artist's Bluebook, Amy Freeman Lee,  http://www.askart.com/askart/l/amy_freeman_lee/amy_freeman_lee.aspx?GUID=1E6289D3-B98A-4896-85AA-689477277A60, retrieved October 28, 2014

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