Collections--Private, Corporate, and Public
Press Release

Timothy Dean Lee - Biography
Written by Cynthia Robins for San Francisco Examiner

As the saying goes: Art is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration. But in Timothy Dean Lee’s case, it is probably 50 percent divination--gushing from some divine mist hovering above the planet. Lee’s paintings are populated with the creatures of pan-universal mythology. Chinese dragons. Mayan Temples. Hopi Sun symbols. Flying Mexican jalapeno peppers. Blue-faces Tuaregs. Aztec flying serpents. Alien spacecraft.

At 40, Timothy Dean Lee is an artist of many parts. His paintings, an extraordinarily child-like mix of magic, myth and message, exude exuberance and joy. His objects-- painted pins, furniture, scarves and denim jackets -- are instant collector’s items. Says Lee, “Much of what I do, even if it’s whimsical and fun, sends messages on how we humans treat things we view as different. How many times we destroy what is different because we don’t understand it. I deal in painted parables.”

Lee’s imagery attacks both on a pleasing and playful level and then on one more visceral and subjective. “The dragon can be fiery and dangerous,” says Lee, “but he is also a playful paladin, a protector.”

Lee knows what it is like to grow up different. When he was two, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy on his right side. He wore leg braces up to his hips until he was seven. His parents worked with him every day, exercising him night and morning. They were determined that their son have a normal life.

Since the, Timothy Dean Lee’s life has been extraordinary. Born on May 10, 1959 in Indianapolis, Indiana, the son of a General Motors Executive and a landscape painter, Lee was blessed with an inordinate amount of creative gifts along with what could have been a crippling disability. Instead, he developed his talent as a singer, actor and artist, along with body strength.

As a child, he watched his mother paint and he says, “I don’t even remember when I didn’t do art. My mother gave me drawings I’d done at four or five years old. The colors and everything are really good. I am still amazed.” But music diverted his interest from the fine arts. As a teen, he summered at National Music Camp in Interlochen, Michigan where he studied voice with famous Metropolitan Opera basso, William Warfield. He joined the squeaky-clean choral group, the Young Americans, when he was still in high school and entered Albion (Mich.) College on a full music scholarship in vocal performing and musical theatre.

At Albion, Lee’s professionality was neither an enhancement nor was it appreciated. “I’d been performing since I was a kid,” he explains, “and all of a sudden, I had this instructor at Albion who said I was too professional, too polished. He told me I’d have to “relearn.” So I followed my mother’s lead. I was able to go to the art department, show them my portfolio and I was passed out of the first two years of art classes.”

Lee’s years at Albion were spent mostly off-campus. He worked in New York for an advertising firm his junior year and then as an art therapist in Philadelphia his senior year. He also studied at the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts with Sidney Goodman and Jamie Wyeth. He graduated from Albion in 1981, receiving his diploma by mail. He returned to Manhattan to New York University to work on a master’s degree in art therapy and child psychology, entering his first group show at the Now Gallery in the East Village. Included in the show were works by Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Mark Kostabi (“When he was doing his own art,” explains Lee). “That show gave me the recognition I needed to realize that I could concentrate on my art alone,” he says. With one course to go, Lee quit working on his master’s and entered the competitive and exhilarating world of fine art.

As a struggling artist in New York, Lee was often too poor to buy the canvas he needed. Instead, he put his art on everything that didn’t move. Squares of silk. Squares of wood. Hat boxes. Shopping bags. When the latter came to the attention of Michel Roux of Absolut Vodka, Lee was commissioned to create a set of three gaily-painted mini-shopping bags covered with his signature dragons and Vikings. That was in 1988. Lee had now joined the illustrious coterie of international artists including Warhol, Haring, Kenny Scharf and Edward Ruscha in the Absolut Art Sponsorship. His playful dragons and their “pet” jalapenos were the perfect adjunct for his “Absolut Lee” canvas for Absolut’s Pepper Vodka; done in 1990.

In March, 1987, the youthful Lee has his first one-man show, Blue Samurai and Company, at the Artworks Gallery in Miami Beach, followed by another one-man show of his Moroccan Blues at the Doma Gallery in New

York’s Soho District. The blue faces and bodies of his subjects have become another Timothy Dean Lee icon.

“For some reason, the blue I use brings out the personality and the feelings of my subject. I can pull what they’re feeling out of them with this blue paint. I was experimenting with channeling and meditation at the time I ran across this blue.” He continues, explaining that “I was told to use this blue. Something inside of me, perhaps my intuition, perhaps not, led me to it. When I’m painting with it, it allows me to become one with the subject. The blue is an equalizer.”

Just recently, Lee discovered that the American Indians used the color blue in healing matter an as transformational material. It’s a life and death thing. Something that has been on people’s minds lately. “Blue,” he concludes, “is a messenger, but you can’t hide with it.”

Nor can the viewer hide from Lee’s other “characters,” his dragons, which, he says, are a link to childhood. “People forget that there is an open and accepting child within all of us. That’s why many of us are writers and artists and others are businessmen. Nine times out of ten, the tycoon has forgotten how to reach for the child in himself. By looking at one of my dragons, people can go back and touch the child that still lives within.”

Collections--Private, Corporate, and Public

Robert DeNiro, Actor
Stephen Cutting, Head Designer-Perry Ellis
Betsy Gonzales and Simon Nemi, Fashion Designers
Princess Diana, Princess of Wales
Prince Alfred, Crown Prince of Liechtenstein
King Constantine of Greece
Ivana Trump
Barbara Walters, News Correspondent
Elizabeth Taylor, Actress
Sylvester Stallone, Actor
Grace Jones, Singer
Toukie Smith, Actress
John Leguizamo, Actor
Mike Lolich, Owner of Little Ceasers, Detroit Tigers, and Detroit Redwings
Madonna, Singer
Naomi Campbell, Model
Cindy Crawford, Model
John McEnroe and Tatum O’Neil, Tennis Player and Actress
Paul Smith, Designer
Jean-Paul Gaultier, Designer
Estate of Keith Haring, Artist
Estate of Michael Carmine, Actor
Estate of Melena Mecure, Greek Actress and Minister of Arts and Culture of Greece
Sophia Loren, Actress
Kataro Taketsuru, CEO of Nikka Whiskey
Carrillon Importers, Teaneck, New Jersey
Absolut Vodka, Stokholm, Sweden
Nikka Whiskey, Tokyo, Japan
Nambu International, New York City & Tokyo
Athens Museum of Modern Art
Albion College Permanent Collections
Iso Japanese Restaurant, New York City
Roney Brokerage, Birmingham, Michigan
Bangkok Children’s Hospital, Bangkok, Thailand
Chiang Mai AIDS Hospice Center, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Press Release: Baan Chao Phraya
49/1 Phra Artit Road
Chana Songkram, Phra Nakorn
Bangkok 10200
(66-2) 288-5704-7

American Artist Timothy Dean Lee

In 1991 American Pop Artist Timothy Dean Lee had just completed his third project for Absolut Vodka (the Absolut Lee Ad), designing the first floor to the San Francisco Nightclub DV8 (Keith Haring had designed the main floor in 1986) and doing a successful one-man show in Athens, Greece.
It was a time when he should have been happy with his success. Returning to New York City from Athens he found he wanted more than his career. Most of his close friends and associates had died of AIDS. The friends one usually relies on for support were not there. So, Timothy Dean Lee packed his bags and art supplies and with the advice of his friend Dennis Hopper, moved to Taos, New Mexico. Mr. Lee stayed in Taos for a year painting and helping run an arts education program on the Taos Pueblo Native American Reservation. In his spare time he also continued to volunteer doing AIDS education like he had previously done in NYC.
At the request of his family, Mr. Lee returned to his family home in Rochester, Michigan where he continued to paint and do volunteer work at an AIDS center in Detroit.
In February 1995 Mr. Lee joined Peace Corps/Thailand and came to Thailand as an AIDS Education Volunteer. Stationed in Pattaya, he worked in AIDS education with male sex workers, all the time continuing to draw and work on studies from what he observed and from stories he had heard.
From June 6 to June 28, 1997 at the Baan Chao Phraya Gallery, Timothy Dean Lee will be showing his new collection of work-- acrylic paintings of his observations of his time as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Some playful, and some of a more serious note. Timothy Dean Lee uses playfulness to bring us a serious message. “Thailand through the eyes of a Dragon.” Come join us.


Timothy Dean Lee

1983-1985 New York University-
Graduate Studies in Art Therapy

1984 National Academy of Arts, New York City

1977-1981 Albion College-
Bachelor of Arts in Visual Arts
Minors: Biology and Psychology

1981 Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts-
Studied painting and life drawing with Sidney Goodman

1980 Philadelphia College of Art-
Studied life sculpture with Tony Vesco

August 1997 Suan Dusit Gallery, Bangkok, Thailand
AIDS: Male Prostitution and Child Abuse, one-man show

June 1997 Baan Chao Phrya, Bangkok, Thailand
“AIDS: It’s a Race Against Time,” “Thailand
through the eyes of the Dragons,” one-man show

May 1994 Paint Creek Gallery, Rochester, Michigan
“Native Americans,” a group show

October 1993 Whitney Museum, New York, New York
“Absolut Artists,” group show beginning with Andy
Warhol and continuing into the 90s

April 1992 Variant Gallery, Taos, New Mexico
“The Figure in Line,” one-man show
Drawings with Conte on Arches paper

December 1991 Stable Gallery, Taos, New Mexico
“Iconology,” juried group-show
Paintings of Madonna and Child

April 1991 Dracos Contemporary Art, Athens, Greece
“Dragons Tour Athens,” one-man show

December 1990 Dracos Contemporary Art, Athens, Greece
International Group show including Rauchenberg,
Warhol, Hockney, etc.

June 1990 German Van Eck Gallery, Soho (New York City)
Group show of internationally known artists
to benefit Amnesty International

May 1990 Serino Gallery, Soho (New York City)
“My Two Sides,” one-man show

December 3, 1989 Art for Action, New York, New York
Art Auction for Act-Up. Organized by David Hockney

October 1988 Art Amusements Gallery, Charlotte, North Carolina
“Totems and the Blues,” one-man show

July-August 1988 Doma Gallery, Soho (New York City)
“Moroccan Blues,” one-man show

November 1987 Studio Diaboliques, Philadelphia
Works on Paper and Artwear

October 1987 Orlando Museum of Art, Florida
A group show of disabled artists.
Sponsored by Very Special Arts
J.F.K. Center of the Performing Arts, Washington D.C.

May 1987 New York University- Grey Art Gallery
Artists with disabilities

March 1987 Artworks Gallery, Miami Beach, Florida
“Blue Samurai and Company,” one-man show

February 1986 80 Washington Square East Galleries, New York City
Tenth annual competition and exhibition of small works

November 1985 Now Gallery, East Village (New York City)
Microshow, small works

November 1985 Bal Masque, Puck Building (New York City)
Charity art show for Youth Council League

August 1985 Now Gallery, East Village (New York City)
Microshow, small works

April 1985 New York University- Grey Art Gallery
Artist With Disabilities
Other Works:
June 1991 Child Abuse Prevention Center, San Francisco, California
Painted large wall mural in the daycare center
of dragons interacting with children

February 1990 Graffiti Row Nightclub, Athens, Greece
Created painted mural that surrounded dance floor

September 1990 DV8 Nightclub, San Francisco, California
Created Dungeon Room; including 20 canvases,
48 wood panels and painted dance floor

August 1990 Commissioned to do canvas for Absolut Ad
campaign: “Absolut Lee.”
This was the third project for Absolut

August 1988 Carillion Imports, Teaneck, New Jersey
Commissioned as a new Absolut Artist to
design three carrying bags and three
lapel pins for the three Absolut Vodkas

May 1987 Guajana Dance Company, New York City
Designed sets, costumes and make-up for
their performance at Pace University

Television/Printed Media:
1996 Absolut Art, written by Richard Lewis, a history of Absolut art from Warhol to presnt day.

June 1990 Young, Gifted and Broke, Manhattan Cable (New York City)
Interview and in-depth look into the work of Timothy Dean Lee

May 1990 Entertainment Tonight, Syndicated
Segment on the New Art Scene in New York City

May 1990 Manhattan Lifestyles, Manhattan Cable (New York City)
Interview and fashion show of hand-painted Couture gowns

December 1989 Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, Syndicated
Segment on the Women’s Power luncheon of New York
Absolut bags were party favors, Barbara Walters and
numerous others were photographed with them

November 1985 The Japanese influence in the American Artist
Mark Omadaka; Videotaped interview for
“The 11pm Show,” aired January 1986, Tokyo, Japan



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