Lee Ann Dodson grew up in Fayetteville, AR but has lived the majority of her adult life in both Oregon and Florida. She recently returned to her roots in the Ozark Mountains where she is a prolific oil painter of the natural beauty in the surrounding landscapes of her youth. Dodson’s style is painterly yet realistic; impressionistic in the details that create a very photorealistic whole.
While in her early twenties, Dodson spent six months in Japan where she was smitten by the art, architecture, and the Eastern aesthetic. This led to years of painting Koi in various gardens, including her own. Heavily influenced by the Impressionists and Post Impressionists she continued to paint and draw in a realistic manner with a focus on naturalism.
Lee Ann had the extraordinary opportunity to become the first artist in residence in the fledgling Arts in Medicine Program at the University of Florida’s College of Medicine. Her work with cancer patients, families and staff reinforced her own experience with the healing properties of art in its many varied forms. Dodson’s second child was born with Down syndrome and she drew upon her art skills to create bridges between the community of children with developmental disabilities and the community at large. Dodson says, “Nature is healing and so is art. To paint a realistic image of nature one must deconstruct it into all its bits in order to reconstruct it on canvas or paper. This labor intensive process of mark making is how I truly learn to know a place and find peace.”
Nature is the element in which I am most nurtured and healed.
The basic elements of nature are the stuff of which we are made. Patterns repeat at a micro and macro level. Colors are endless and with the light and seasons, they constantly change. Nothing is static, not even the rocks. The cliff walls fracture, and fissure crack, fall, and resettle. The very ingredients of the oils with which I paint are from nature, the cobalt, cadmium, ocher, manganese, titanium, oxides, sulfurs, and linseed, the sap of trees. Canvas is woven from hemp or cotton plants, stretchers made of trees, brushes with hog bristles, or the hair from sable, squirrel, goat, ox, badger and more…Even if a dye or pigment or brush is made from something synthetic it is still broken down into the same basic stuff.
I paint the places that formed me and informed me. I grew up playing in the woods near the University behind the house where we lived. I climbed trees, oaks, to the very top and swayed clinging to the branches as a storm was blowing in. The smells of the bark, wet, damp or dry, underneath my fingers, the lichens, and mosses, the leaves, from baby spring green to the warm hues of autumn, and the smell and crackling of the dried brown ones underfoot or in a pile freshly raked.
I spread out on the huge rocks covered in moss and lichens and sang songs with the birds, felt the heat of the day’s sun warming my back on a quickly cooling late afternoon. We caught tadpoles in creeks, collected pretty rocks everywhere we went and knew the smell of water in its various forms.
I painted my face with the red mud at the first waterfall and pool in the place now known as Lost Valley, part of the Buffalo National River Park. I was five or six when my dad drove us there in his Volkswagen Beetle in the early sixties. He had heard of it from a coworker at the hospital and the old logging road was barely passable. I was mystified by the cliffs, the fallen stones, that all seemed so huge to my little body and then there was Eden Falls and better yet, the cave above the falls. It became my most favorite place and luckily I, nor my siblings ever fell off the cliffs.
I learned to whitewater canoe on the Buffalo River by just doing it. Thrilling, and cold. There were nights camping on a gravel bar, a tornado passing overhead and the river flooding; killing some but not any in our bunch. We canoed the Illinois, the King’s River, Lee’s Creek, the White River, and more.
So when was it that I began to translate those limbic and buried memories into paintings that held the depth of experience and all my senses? Later when I lived in a very different environment with different smells, virtually no rocks, and summers that last six months or more. Always, though, I have painted the Ozarks through the decades I lived mostly in Florida, but some in Oregon and Japan.
Now I have returned to the land of my youth, to a patch of woods and field my parents purchased in the sixties out past Goshen. More than a 100 acres of woods I knew as a child and now am learning to know better. So many rocks and trees, mosses, and ferns, deer, snakes, birds, fox, squirrels, rabbits, and so much more. The trees have grown much more than I have. The wood has matured, but the creeks I knew as a child still run when the rain is plentiful.
This is my home. This natural beauty is my place of healing and wholeness. This landscape is a reflection of my heart