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Meet Stephen Eric Lee (E.LEE)

Today we’d like to introduce you to Stephen Eric Lee (E.LEE).

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
This part of my life came about through many twists and turns, different jobs, relationships. An art professor in college helped me get into the art department when I was just taking a drawing class as an elective.

I worked as a professional youth soccer coach for over a decade and painted in my free time. I started to show my work 6 years ago, and get into galleries. I started traveling and doing street art in 2015. I went full time with art a little over a year ago.

My studio is at Chicago and Damen in Ukrainian Village. My goal is to create a rhythm with my work that allows viewers to connect in a meaningful way. Context is paramount. I orchestrate experiences in gallery spaces and create pieces for the general public on the street.

No matter what life has in store, I will simply continue to make work that excites me and present it to audiences in a way I feel will be most impactful.

This is a broad answer to a broad question. I am happy to get into the details more… just let me know what part of it interests you most.

Please tell us about your art.
Whenever I make a piece I want it to be visually beautiful, thought provoking, and make sense within its environment. When people encounter my work, I hope they are both emotionally effected and mentally stimulated.

I work in series and the themes of my art often revolve around symbols. My first big series centered around the suffering hero. I reference classic comics for moments of struggle and loss. I strip away all elements of the story to make the moment more iconic.

All humans are connected by suffering. We have pain and loss. We all grow old and die. Like the image of Christ on the cross, I hope these paintings can symbolize an updated version of the suffering of humanity.

I have a series about our cultural symbols of value, where I replace the sentimental objects we keep on shelves in our homes with piles of money and gold. Along these same lines I work with the symbol of the gold frame. Any object automatically feels important when surrounded by a gold frame. It also draws a line from that piece to the rest of art history. Using these symbols allows me to convey very complex and deep ideas with very simple images.

I create by moving toward the ideas that excite me. Then my gut tells me what to keep and what to discard. Why I’m compelled to make the pieces I make usually isn’t clear to me until I get distance from them… which can take years.

My process usually starts in the computer. Once I’m happy with the composition of a piece, I size it and print stencils. Spray paint and or acrylic paint are my mediums of choice. I paint on canvas and aluminum, but most often use carved wood panels as surfaces.

We often hear from artists that being an artist can be lonely. Any advice for those looking to connect with other artists?
The number one thing an artist needs to do is make quality work and get it in front of people. A lot will happen just from this. However, it’s really important that artists figure out which galleries show their style of work, and regularly attend their shows. Get to know the gallerists, the artists, the collectors.

When you are in group shows, make an effort to meet and talk to the other artists. Collect and trade work with those you respect.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
I have a studio at Chicago and Damen in Ukranian Village. I enjoy meeting people and having them see my work in person.

To contact me for a studio visit, read my blog, or purchase on-line people can go to
My instagram: _e.lee_
Facebook: Works By E.LEE

Sharing my work with friends and family on social media, coming to shows, and of course buying prints or originals helps me continue to make work here in Chicago.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Main photo: Peter Hinsdale

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Samantha Barkley

    September 7, 2018 at 2:44 am

    E.Lee has so many great pieces. I love the play on what we value in the gold series and the connection felt with the suffering hero. Can’t wait to see what he does next!

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