He Was A She

Artist’s Profile

Painter Sadie Lee is best known for her controversial series of portraits of former Burlesque stars, now elderly and retired, painted in costumes from their glory days.  The exhibition ‘A Dying Art: Ladies of Burlesque’ was shown at the National Portrait Gallery in 1997 before touring the U.K. for a year.

With regard to her latest project, Lee explains that Holly Woodlawn was very much a part of the creative process. Although some of the images are unflinchingly honest (one of the largest paintings shows Holly with the walking frame she now relies on) it is important to know that they were posed and created with Holly’s knowledge and full cooperation.

Lee has stated that it was not her intention to present Holly as a tragic figure, but to make a true record of a complex individual.  Holly is a celebrated icon who, despite life’s difficulties and advancing years, exudes infectious optimism and a genuine love of life.  Lee’s paintings were made with absolute respect for the subject.

For Lee, painting Holly Woodlawn started out as a celebration of a celebrity figure known mostly through legend and anecdote.  As the artist came to know Holly better, the paintings became more a study of the representation of the ageing body, and the ambiguity of gender.

Sadie Lee’s work won a BP Travel Award (1996) and was commended in the BP Portrait Award (1998).

Solo exhibitions include :

A Dying Art: Ladies of the Burlesque – National Portrait Gallery and touring (1997)
Don’t Look – Museum of Modern Art, Slovenia (1998)
Venus Envy
– Manchester Art Gallery (1994)

Group shows include :

Fellow Travellers – Salford Museum & Art Gallery, (2007),
– East West Gallery, London (2005),
Sailor – Liverpool Biennial (2004)
Art For Equality
– I.C.A., London (1996) and
BP Portrait Award – National Portrait Gallery (1992, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002)