Within the last year Tara Stallworth Lee has made big jumps in life: joining Ground Floor Contemporary Gallery and taking on a studio space, building a darkroom studio on family land, and leaving her job at Space One Eleven to pursue her career as an artist, and taking on a job with a portrait photographer on the side. She is a self-taught photographer who is still finding her voice and looking to get feedback on her work from being part of communal studio group and having a regular venue in which to exhibit.
Lee was raised in the rural community of Beatrice, Alabama, and she is rooted to the south. She once thought she could not identify as a southerner. Wanting to be around creative artist types, she ran-away to Albuquerque, New Mexico where she considered starting the Art Therapy program at The University of New Mexico. In New Mexico, Lee took her first film-based photography class and became hooked on the medium. She has since embraced her southern roots and finds inspiration and kindred understanding with other southern-rooted artists like Sally Mann.
Lee, who works in both film and digital photography, sees the conflict some artists have over what is real photography as a non-argument. For her, there are two different mediums; related but separately their own, both with their own merits and limitations. Besides photography, Lee has been making paper and doing bookbinding for over 20 years. One of her recent projects, a sculptural self-portrait, includes paper-making elements and old love letters folded into paper cranes.
One of the projects that excites Lee is her endeavor into a portraiture series. Lee worked with portraits while living in Raleigh, North Carolina. There, she got the opportunity to interview and photograph women from the United Nations through the Raleigh chapter of the Soroptimist International, who were hosting an event on women’s empowerment. What she found in that project was the story and life of the person Lee was interviewing and photographing became part of the photograph, and that portraits reveal a very intimate and connected look at a person.
Lee’s pieces have been on display at Ground Floor Contemporary Gallery this past August and December. She has also recently shown in the past year at White Flowers Gallery in Homewood and Arts Revive in Selma. Currently she is one of three artists showing in Ground Floor Contemporary’s current show, Back In Time, which is up until March 26th. Also included in the show are Martha Jean Shaw and Ashley Wingo.