This image is always at the front of my mind. It’s 1958 and Lee Bontecou is in Rome on a Fulbright working in her studio. There’s so much that is dear to me here—the widow, the shutters, the light, the shadows of the sculptures on the wall, her blue jeans, her turtleneck, her little nun haircut which she still keeps, how she seems like she’s jamming so much work into her time. It looks like a Vermeer portrait but instead of doing needlework or pouring water, she’s sculpting. Lee learned to weld steel frames that year and then she did insane things with them over the next 50+ years.
These images, including the badass blowtorch shot, by Ugo Mulas show Lee in her Wooster Street studio in 1963. The closeup of Lee at work was taken by Hans Namuth in 1964.
If it’s OK to focus down a bit more on her lewk, which is so blessedly consistent, I’d like to point out that here she is back in NYC at her Wooster Street studio, probably freezing, owning zōri + socks + blowtorch. And then, like, here she is now and I bet you she’s got slippers on underneath that table.
Lee in her Pennsylvania studio in 2003. Photograph by Will Brown. It pleases me.