Anna Lee talks Gray Matter

A collection of four paintings: North, East, South, and West. For  Gray Matter Series: Sense of Place.

A collection of four paintings: North, East, South, and West. For Gray Matter Series: Sense of Place.

I am a milliner, painter, and fashion designer with additional background in nonprofit management, product development, event production, and the healing arts. And through all of this, one of the most significant artforms in my career is that of collaboration.

Everything I do is a vehicle for collaboration, sharing new ideas, and building community.

The Gray Matter Series began as an idea in the summer of 2016. I was in Australia for a millinery conference. This was the same week as the Philando Castile shooting, and I watched from the other side of the planet as the polarity unfolded. “How can this be? Is it not clear? Are we destined to see everything in black and white?” I asked myself as I worked the grey felt in my class that day.

One year later, that grey headdress I started in Australia quietly launched the Gray Matter Series at the 58th Annual Midwestern at the Rourke Art Museum.

The Gray Matter Series officially launched with the Fall 2017 collection of gray hats and colorful abstract paintings during Fashion Week MN at the Hewing Hotel. I continued to be moved by the polarization we experience in our world and wanted a platform for encouraging thoughtful discourse and finding the “middle ground” between the extremes. It has now evolved into an ongoing set of collaborations between creative souls that I bring together each season.

Last winter, I received a grant from the Arts Partnership to support my investigation into making my paintings available as scarves for this Spring’s Gray Matter Series: A Sense of Place, which pair with my handmade hats.

“Sense of Place” investigates the idea that WHERE we are impacts WHO we are. I relocated from MSP to northern MN a couple of years ago and have been surprised at how deeply I have fallen back into painting, something I had not done much in the years I was in MSP. It was as if I had re-opened a door to part of myself and all of this creative energy poured out. I’ve also been traveling much more than I ever have, and taking note of how each city has its own personality. I am often solo in my travels, so it makes the experience that much more apparent.

However, the most significant source of inspiration for this collection was spending time with my sister Martha and her daughter Rosa on a beach last summer where they live on Long Island. Rosa was only two, but she was already one with the waves. Seeing the joy in her eyes, her ease in the wild ocean, I knew then that she would be a fierce young woman. It gave me hope for the future.

The upcoming launch on Monday, April 23rd is located at Winsome Goods Flagship + Studio and features the final products of this current collaboration with photography by Lauren Krysti, creative direction by Melanie Haroldson of Haroldson Art & Design, hair and makeup by Kristine Loehrer, film by Kylee and Christian Creative, and a set of custom lipsticks from Elixery: Ruby + Rosa. We'll have springtime treats on hand, and our friends from Selfie & Co. will be setting up their digital photobooth.

The event is part of Fashion Week MN and Fashion Revolution Week, which encourages us all to ask: "Who Made my Clothes?" 







anna lee