Jamot Emily Godie (Lee Godie) was born in Chicago in 1908, but later stated, ‘I’m not celebrating my birthday. I celebrate my status as an artist.’ She recorded her observations of nature, the cityscape and people in drawings and paintings. Goldie suffered losses early in her life, including the death of two of her children. In the early 1960s she began living on the streets of Chicago and changed her name to ‘Lee’.
Where and when possible she promoted her paintings and drawings. On the steps of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1968, where Godie tried to sell her works of art, she was first noted. She built up an active group of followers and patrons, consisting of museum curators, art academy students and tourists. Godie became one of the most widely-collected artist in Chicago at that time.
By living in the heart of the city, without the trappings of domestic comforts, Godie was attuned to the pulse of Chicago. She made her ‘home’ in different areas of the city which functioned as her living room, her studio and her salon. In a city where mainstream artists bemoaned the art world ascendency of New York and Los Angeles, Godie called it out, proclaimed ‘Chicago We Own It’ on many works.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Godie added photographic self-portraits to her repertoire. The snapshots, taken in photo booths of bus stations, offer a window into the artist exploring and forging her own identity. She described herself as a French Impressionist and asserted, ‘I am much better than Cézanne’.
A movie about Lee Godie is being made at the moment and will be launched soon.
A photobooth video with Lee Godie: