Following upon the previous blog post about Gunnar Mines alumni, Donna Lee’s role as educator can’t be separated from her art. In 2012, she wrote and colourfully illustrated a children’s book Peter Fidler and the Métis. Fidler was an explorer and mapmaker for the Hudson’s Bay Company. He married a Cree woman and Donna Lee is a descendant of this union. The book relates Fidler’s story but is, at the same time, a portrait of the oft-troubled Métis history in Canada and Donna Lee’s personal journey into her Aboriginal heritage.
She also illustrated Ken “Manny” Carron’s award-winning book Manny’s Memories, published in 2014 which has a similar focus on Métis life in Canada. Most recently, Donna Lee completed a series of ten small paintings, featuring aspects of traditional Métis life, for the Gabriel Dumont Institute in Saskatchewan, an organization that promotes Métis culture.
Although Donna Lee paints realistic subject matter on occasion, her work is generally more abstract and is often described as spiritual. The natural world is an important focus of her work. She paints because she has to, saying, “It is part of who I am. Painting is a process and I do it, not caring about making mistakes or what it looks like at the end.”
Her work often unconsciously unveils what she has been thinking. In one piece, as a woman’s form emerged as she painted, Donna Lee realized the figure embodied the painful thoughts that had been surfacing as she listened to news about the mistreatment of women. The finished work is entitled “Hope” reflecting Donna Lee’s belief in the strength of women and her optimism for the future.
Her media include alcohol ink, acrylic, oil, encaustic, mixed media, and collage. You can see more of her work on her Facebook page.