Tommy Lee, Artist to Watch
Tommy Lee never learned how to paint. Upon leaving his home in Martha’s Vineyard to attend SCAD, he began to pursue photography which quickly took a hard turn towards abstraction. He was then inspired to pick up a paintbrush and within no time, the artist found a medium that he could get lost in. His work consists of repetition of symbols, words, and color. Each painting is a puzzle that fits into the entirety of the artist’s work as a whole. With each new piece, the puzzle grows. His work is captivating, invigorating, and thought-provoking. Most of his pieces also include the word “safe,” a British slang word for cool which also helps connect each piece visually and metaphorically. His canvasses explode with lines, symbols, and words, and lead the viewer throughout his work. Simply, his work is easy on the eyes, but to understand the deeper meaning behind his work, you have to hear it from the artist himself.
“I got into painting because of being constantly surrounded by paintings. My mother was an art consultant growing up. And then, through working in art galleries, I was always drawn to the artists that were painting. I always thought it had a magic to it and wanted to do it myself. I didn't have any training and just sort of started to figure out how to paint. My work is sacred to me, it is my DNA in color, anonymous words and life-suggesting symbols.”
And it seems that his work is becoming a part of other’s DNA as well. Tommy has broken the boundaries of paint on canvas and his work can be found on display on t-shirts, dresses, pants, and jackets of SCAD students and other followers throughout Savannah. His painted clothing brand is called Safe Collective, which includes many collaborations with others in Savannah. Tommy’s goal is to build the brand on a larger scale and participate in more collaborations in the future with established companies.
Through his work, Tommy builds a home, a safe place to surround himself in the foundation of his being. His work is not only an artistic outlet for himself, but it involves those around him, no matter where he travels. You can purchase Tommy’s work online, and at ShopSCAD at 340 Bull Street. You can also find him at other various events and exhibitions around Savannah including those at Broughton Exchange where he participated in a trunk show last Thursday (read the event blog and view photos from the event), and one of his paintings is currently hanging in Sylvester & Co. on Broughton Street.
In between classes and these events, Tommy is busy preparing for a show in east Hampton starting in June and also working to open a gallery in the Starland District here in Savannah. The gallery will feature not only Tommy’s work, but that of his girlfriend, Gwen O’Neil, as well as other students, mid career, and well established artists from around the country. Tommy is definitely an artist to watch in Savannah.