Your Browser is not Supported.

We recommend the latest version of Safari, Firefox, Chrome, or Microsoft Edge.

Update your browser



Jennifer J. Lee


Independent New York 2022
Solo Presentation

May 5-8, 2022

Jennifer J. Lee (b. 1977) created 8 paintings for a solo booth project at the 2022 Independent art fair in New York City. Lee makes her paintings sitting at a traditional drawing desk by a window. While working she refers to an iPad which displays an image sourced from internet forums and online shopping sites. Often times her cat, Cheese, keeps her company.

Lee, using very small brushes and colors drawn straight from the tube paints on thick jute burlap. This process degrades the mechanical operation of photography while perversely simulating it. Her work is startlingly photo-realistic, rendered in an intimate scale that invests familiar objects with a psychological depth. Lee acts as a visual semiotician, choosing her subjects as symbolic objects and deploying them in sequences that produce a quasi syntactical language. For the Independent, Lee worked on one painting at a time, each work’s imagery conceived of in relation to the piece just previously finished.

The following is an exchange originally published on the Independent’s OVR between Jennifer J. Lee and Ingrid Bromberg Kennedy in anticipation of Lee’s 2022 solo presentation at the fair.

Ingrid Bromberg Kennedy: All of your work is painted on jute burlap, which has a very rough and porous surface. What interests you in painting on this material?

Jennifer J. Lee: The jute breaks up the line quality of paint, removing a kind of hand or individualistic signature. I like the anonymity that this affords. I also like the look of the image growing out of the canvas like moss. To me, paint on that kind of natural-looking material has this organic feel to it, which contrasts to the digital origin of the image.

Because it’s such a resistant surface, burlap is really good at scumbling and holding on to only small bits of paint at a time. This makes the process of rendering a little painstaking but good for slowing down the build up of paint. At a removed distance they are totally legible but as you get close that legibility disintegrates, kind of like thumbnails in a web search.


There’s a sense that Lee is painting results from Google image searches,
just as a landscape painter might paint a lake vista.

— Rahel Aima, Art in America



IBK: The imagery that you use is very particular, it tends to be very familiar, but surprising. Where do you find your images, and how do you decide what you want to paint?

JJL: I like the idea of being surprised or sentimentally charged by something that is familiar or even sort of dull; that’s really exciting to me. I like to search a lot of different online contexts like shopping sites such as ebay and craigslist, or hashtags on Instagram are fruitful. Lately I have been using a random image generator to open up more chance in the work. Sometimes this leads to researching a subject that starts to get very specific, like wholesale construction equipment or used car auto part websites.


IBK: How do you plan out the paintings for an exhibition?

JJL: The past couple of shows I planned all the paintings before I started them, making miniature printouts and placing them in a model. I tried to figure out the relationships between them before I started. For the group of paintings I made for the Independent, I didn’t want to know the end of the story before I began. I wanted to work more linearly, starting with one painting and then pairing it with the next idea, and then that painting’s relationship to the next one. Right now I am more interested in surprising myself — this way of choosing feels more like being on a tightrope, ensuring that the relationship between the two choices is slightly provocative but poetically related.

IBK: What is your daily studio practice like?

JJL: I have a pretty structured day. I share a two bedroom apartment with my partner who’s also a painter and we use the bedrooms as studios. I start with my morning coffee and 30 minute computer image search. Then, I try to get in a good 2 hours of painting before lunch and work till late evening.

IBK: What do you like to do for fun?

JJL: Karaoke is a thing I like to do for fun, although I’m really a horrible singer. My cat leaves the room if I start singing, it’s that bad!

Installation view, 5th Floor, Independent New York, 2022

Untitled (Zillow), 2022
oil on jute
9 × 12 inches (22.86 × 30.48 cm)

Untitled (Plaid Skirt), 2022
oil on jute
13 × 9 inches (33.02 × 22.86 cm)

Untitled (Restaurant), 2022
oil on jute
9 × 12 inches (22.86 × 30.48 cm)

Learn more about Jennifer J. Lee:

Visit Lee’s Artist Page on

Contact Us

Reach out to us and let us know if you have any questions.

    By sharing your contact information you agree to our Privacy Policy.