THE ART OF RESEARCH

ABOUT THE ARTIST
2017 Bio, Biography, Artist Information

This buffalo hide lodge is one of only a handful in the world. Hand tanned and sewn with buffalo sinew, it provides a glimpse that can be translated onto canvas. It is shown here at Teter’s camp along the Wind River in Wyoming.

Lee says, “Without art there would be no way to see America’s pre-photographic past.” He reminds us, “Every visual representation of the pre-photographic past comes to us through the mind of an artist”. Research is vital if any modern image is to provide a suitable glimpse into the past.”

Painting pictures of early America is challenging because detailed period drawings and paintings  of early American culture and technology are relatively rare. Visual resources are scarce. By the time photography could provide a reliable vision of American culture, the world had already been altered by shifting, changing, and merging international traditions and technology.

Lee’s research has been focused on finding and acquiring VISUAL references that apply to the pre-photographic past. Printed words are helpful but inadequate for the visual arts. Lee needs information that (to quote Lee) “catches light and throws shadows”. As early as 1990 Lee’s research was sought by filmmakers who required the same visual information Lee needs as an artist.

Words, however, are important. Because of the need to correctly understand pre-photographic visual resources Lee assembled an extensive library of hundreds of books related to American history and technology. His research notes are the result of tens of thousands of miles traveled, tens of thousands of pages read, and thousands of photographs of artifacts and historical landscapes. The information these resources hold is distilled and sifted through untold hours of study before becoming visual art. Making history art is an “art” long before a the first line of a drawing is made.

Lee’s pages of decades old research papers are mingled with fresh and recent notes and sketches because his search is never over. Letters from Ireland, Scotland, England, Germany, and other countries are mixed with generous correspondence and source material from great American scholars like John Ewers and Ted Brasser. Drawings, sketches, and notes, are jammed into margins or pasted beside photographs of related artifacts so they don’t get lost in trail worn notebooks. If half finished art and furniture needed by an artist could be ignored, Lee Teter’s studio would seem to indicate that research, rather than art, has been the focus of his lifetime.

While artists have been the sole means of visual representations of pre-photographic history, most of them were (and still are) more concerned with art than with America’s vanished cultures. Lee, however, is committed to combining art and history appropriately. He has a lifetime of knowledge to do it with.