For 24 years a visit to Martha's Vineyard was not complete without both a visit to the West Tisbury home, and a pilgrimage to the Vineyard Haven gallery of my friend, reverse glass painter Richard Lee. In a magical house tucked into Indian territory, filled with totems and feathers, Buddha's and bracelets, stuffed wolves and wall to wall art, Richard and his family resided. He was a brilliant, thoughtful and irreverent man who was generous in spirit, adored his family, tended his gardens, and obsessivly worked on his art.
A visiting reporter, Heather Curtis wrote in the Martha's Vineyard Times:
"The studio's door opens wide to reveal his reverse paintings on glass displayed in antique frames on the room's pastel walls. They are vividly colored neon fantasies conveying a satiric humor. Vibrant green frogs wearing neon-colored boots in 'Java Jive' dance around merrily while balancing oversized cups of coffee above their heads. In 'Fashion Runway' models with human bodies and animal heads strut around in front a crowd of neon blue spectators. Richard Lee paints the details first, then adds background.Richard said that "the mixture of animal and human forms come from his observing the animal characteristics that many people have."
Ms. Curtis added, "He says the images he paints are zoomorphic, portraying "'the realizations of the inner connectedness of all of life.'" As for the meanings of the paintings, he says that's up to the viewer to figure out. '"People don't know how they're supposed to react, as if they're supposed to,'" Mr. Lee says, taking a long sip from his iced coffee.
"An Islander since the 1970s, he discovered the art form by chance, he explains. It was a friend's birthday, and he didn't have any paper to make a card. So he made do with what he had, painting a card on a piece of glass. The accident became an instant addiction."
He was a very magical man.....a man whose spirit will remain in the hearts of all who were privileged to know him. He made us open our eyes and view the world in an entirely different way. The lesson and the man will not be lost, but they will be dearly missed.