Cherie Lee is a self-taught Philadelphia-born artist who utilizes high speed rotary equipment to reduce genuine ostrich eggshells to small-scale sculptures appreciating, and testing, the limits of faculty and frailty. Whether her subject matter be ecological, sociological or anthropological, she unites substance and subject, gingerly evoking one basic concept: what you have is fragile, no matter it's strength.
Having grown up suburban-poor, her earliest materials were found objects in nature and readily available household items, predominantly paper.
These early works resulted most often in two distinct styles: elaborate dimensional paper sculptures that are white-on-white plays of light and shadow, or detailed, paper-cuts and scherenschnitte.
Both styles notable for what they lack, or what's been taken away; a concept she hopes might foster a more solid appreciation for what is there.
Shortly after recognizing the humble chicken egg as the ideal 4-dimensional 'canvas' by dint of accident and ignorance, she stumbled upon where those styles merged. This intersection created a new path, and eggshells became her primary medium of choice, with the common household Dremel® as her sole, yet very limiting, tool.
With the advent of the internet, her practice expanded and deepened beyond her own expectations, and soon emu, rhea and ostrich eggs became the predominate objective. Immediately upon learning of dental drills as a carving tool, she saw the direction she wanted to go, and never quite lost sight of it.
What promised to be an auspicious career-start instead signaled her career's end. Even as one of her earliest pieces was being accepted to the United States White House Permanent Collection, a tragic death close-at-hand was triggering an emotional breakdown in the family, ultimately resulting in the artist sustaining a debilitating injury, further contributing to the household's dissolution. Thus evolved a permanently disabled single mother of two young boys, for whom 25 years would pass before she ever laid hands or eyes on that recently discovered dental drill.
The creative suspension was broken by the next significant life-disruption, marked by a tumultuous upending of hearth and home. This forced re-formation spurred the full-fledged return to her craft, with a compelling intent to master her medium. By October of 2018, she obtained her long-desired dental drill, and set to work with diligence. All works shown on this website* have been created since that critical date. She's only now recognizing her under-estimation of the medium, as well as her own skills, and is looking forward to seeing just how far she can push them.
Her interest and investigations into disability, poverty and homelessness come from a personal place, and her current path explores how much can be taken away from something, be it natural, man-made or conceptual, without it breaking.
“However,” she cautions, “if the strength of an eggshell allows me to push it to it's furthest limits, it's fragility reminds me not to.”
Eggshell sculptor Cherie Lee is looking at what falls between the cracks, and finding beauty and courage there.
*with the exception of "additional hobbies and interests" & "additive sculpture" on the Engraving/Alternate Works page
30 minute Live Artist Talk - Bethany Art's Virtual Resident Oct. 2020