On February 6th, 2020, InLiquid was devastated by the loss of our dear friend and longtime artist member, Lee Lippman. Having lived a wonderfully colorful and exciting 93 years, Lee was an artist who painted just for the love of painting. His studio, filled to the brim with his paintings, only represents some of his work. Lee along with his wife and fellow artist of 70 years, Arlene Love, would hold what they called burning parties, where they would ceremoniously incinerate some of his paintings and her sculptures. They did this as a form of renewal and as a way to begin the creative process freshly. He loved producing artwork so much he eventually accumulated more than his Fairmount studio could house.
Lippman resided and worked in Philadelphia for most of his life. At the age of 12, he called himself Lee Arnold and formed his first jazz band, the Royal Knights of Rhythm, but he continued his lessons with Gigliotti into early adulthood. Lee also served in the U.S. Military. after he returned home, he enrolled in the Philadelphia College of Art, now the University of the Arts, where he studied painting, advertising, and graphic design. It was there that he learned about the new materials being used by the Mexican muralist, David Alfaro Siquieros. He wrote to him, offering his services as an assistant, and Siquieros accepted his offer. From there, Lee boarded a Philadelphia bus headed towards Mexico City, where he enrolled in the Instituto Politecnico and La Escuela Esmeralda, where Frida Kahlo taught. Lee participated in hands-on work with Siquieros, using the new pyroxylin paints, now substituted for the traditional fresco techniques. While in Mexico City, he was lucky enough to participate in a workshop with famed muralists Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco.
By the late 1970’s and early 80’s, after a successful eighteen-year career in design, Lee and Arlene began spending a good portion of each year in the hills of Oaxaca, where, having gone back into painting full-time, Lee was inspired by his surroundings, and began painting the scenic fields and markets in nearby villages. This period of his life is what inspired his San Pablo series, which consists of over 90 works depicting the town’s romanticly deep colors, simple lifestyles, and rich landscapes. By the early 2000s, Lee and Arlene moved from their peaceful countryside adobe house at the end of a meandering dirt road, back to their home in Philadelphia where they saw their home town with fresh eyes. Lee then painted Philadelphia cityscapes and was exhibited frequently by InLiquid. These quiet scenes are indicative of Lee’s signature style. In his many paintings of landscapes, cityscapes, beach fronts, dunes, and tiny islands (both in a bucolic and urban form), he shows his appreciation for what he says in his artist statement as “the infinite space above and the finite forms of the land below.”
Lee also had a passion for jazz. During his time in the military, he spent the duration of the war playing in army bands, during which time he created a jazz band that played in officers’ clubs. Jazz and art are what he and his wife Arlene Love connected on the most. Lee and Arlene would have celebrated their 70th anniversary this coming June.
We don’t remember exactly when InLiquid became friends with Lee and Arlene. It seems like they were always part of our little world even though it was not since the beginning. Lee’s paintings always gave a sense of completion to the exhibitions we’ve included him in and have been part of the evolution of our organization. Ranging from our exhibition space at the former Painted Bride, and our early days of Park Towne Place programming, to his most recent exhibition with InLiquid at Schwarz Gallery in Rittenhouse, Lee’s work and presence has always been a staple to the InLiquid community and family. In a way, it’s almost as if Lee and Arlene were the ones who adopted us, and we are forever thankful.