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Lee Udall Bennion
(Merced, CA, 1956 - )
Born on March 17, 1956 in Merced, California, Lee Bennion moved to Utah in 1974 to study art at Brigham Young University. In 1976, she married ceramicist Joseph Bennion and moved to the rural setting of Spring City in Sanpete County, Utah. Today she has three daughters and is energetically involved in both church and community activities in the family-oriented life of Spring City.
In 1983, Lee returned to Brigham Young University where she earned a Master of Fine Arts in painting. She has received numerous honors and awards from the Art Community, and is a frequent participant in presentations and workshops for artists and educators. Also, Bennion has been the featured artist of several articles in national art publications, including Southwest Art.
Lee’s commitment to family is reflected in the subject matter of many of her paintings. Her husband Joe believes the objects Lee sees with her eyes are “transferred as visual information through the conduit of her soul.” Lee Bennion’s distinctive style, with its pensive, elongated figures, is not so much portraiture as it is her own special harmony between the subject, the emotional atmosphere, and the viewer.
She says of her work, “Although I primarily paint the figure, portraiture is not my main concern. My painting deals with form, color, and feelings foremost. Often a likeness of my model is also found in my paintings, and I enjoy this when it happens. My figures are often slightly distorted, never quite perfect, but hopefully still reflect the warmth and goodness that I feel exists within them. I am most pleased when these feelings reach the viewer, and some kind of dialogue occurs that goes beyond the recognition of the
Redheaded Adah Bennion, the youngest of three children of Joseph and Lee Bennion of Spring City, is often the subject of her mother’s paintings. Snow Queen, depicts the six year old in her pajamas standing in a window casement, with cutout paper snowflakes on the glass panes. In her left hand, Adah holds a troll doll, her hand covering its face. All the viewer sees is the doll’s legs and bright red-orange hair.
Typical of Lee Bennion’s work is the composition, which concentrates upon the essential components—in this case, the window and figure. Another feature of Bennion’s work is the elongated figure, whose position she arranges to create an effective design. In this oil painting we see Adah gazing impishly at the viewer, while her pink-stockinged foot is wedged on the side of the window casing.
Although a bright, engaging portrait of her daughter, this painting, like Bennion’s other work, has layers of meaning and references. There is a visual play on words in the paper snowflakes on the inside of the window and the real snowflakes outside. The troll doll is a reference to time and a tie to Lee’s own childhood, when the dolls were first popular. Bennion also says that at the time of the painting, when Adah was young, Lee’s life primarily revolved around her family and home, and she was inside much of the time. Thus, subconsciously, she painted the interior scene to represent her life, and the window to represent the future changes and possibilities.
As with most of Lee’s work, Snow Queen’s subject looks out at the viewer with an unusually direct gaze, not only conveying Adah’s personality, but also allowing Lee, as the painter, to engage the viewer through that gaze.