Lee Bontecou

born Providence, RI 1931-died FL 2022
Providence, Rhode Island, United States
Florida, United States
Active in
  • New York, United States
  • American

Born in 1931, Lee Bontecou was deeply affected by World War II and remembers her mother working in a factory, wiring submarine parts. After studying at a small Boston college, she joined the Art Students League in New York City, working with William Zorach. Her early work was conservative and depicted animals and birds. In 1957, Bontecou traveled to Rome, where she was attracted by the “inartistic” objects she found in the streets and in machinery. She began making soot drawings that she called “worldscapes” and used a wide variety of materials like wire, old clothes, wood scraps, and plaster in her sculpture. Her work became bigger and more aggressive as she grew more troubled by world news, including the Cuban revolution’s betrayal of its ideals and the beginnings of the Vietnam War. Unhappy with the art world and wanting to focus on motherhood, Bontecou withdrew from exhibiting in the early 1970s and moved to rural Pennsylvania with her daughter and husband, the artist William Giles.