All about the Bling…

January 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

Due to uncontrollable circumstances, I was unable to attend the Decathlon Artist Talk yesterday.  A shame because I was looking forward to it. I would still like to share my reasoning for creating this body of work.  *ahem*

Fast Food Cook by Lee Gainer

Back in 2008, when my work concentrated on unwritten rules and media endorsed expectations, I created a print series entitled Two Months Salary.  This series is made up of 20 10″ x 8″ prints, each displaying the name of an occupation and nine engagement rings.  I collected data on the average salaries of several occupations (Farmer, Police Officer, Dentist, A List Actor, etc.) and then found nine rings that, according to Debeers, that person should purchase if they want their love to taken seriously by modern western society. The prints were made, people enjoyed them, and then I moved on.

The statement about the prints…

In May of 2006, a female Sunday Morning reporter went out on the streets of New York City to ask passers-by what they thought about her 3/4 carat diamond solitaire engagement ring. ”It says that he tried his best… but that it wasn´t good enough,” said one lady. “Well, its fine… for a friendship ring,” replied another. Another bystander replied that “you need a magnifying glass to see it.”  The diamond engagement ring has evolved from a luxury item mostly purchased by the wealthy to a must have for any bride-to-be. In 1947, DeBeers began a marketing campaign to increase diamond sales, hoping to cash in on a growing post-war economy. Jewelers began using the guideline of two months salary as a standard. This campaign has been so successful that we now, as a society in general, equate a man´s personal worth and love for his future spouse with the size of a shiny rock. For many, size matters.  If you visit, you will find a ring budget tool that determines what you should spend. It divides your annual salary by 6 to come up with the “standard” two month guideline. Using this equation, along with the most recent average salary data gathered from the US Dept. of Labor and, I created a list of average salaries for a range of occupations. Images of rings were allocated to each occupation by price. There are 20 separate prints in this piece, each representing a specific occupation with 9 rings that, according to the jewelry industry, are the standard for that particular occupation´s salary.
You can view all of the prints here at my website.

Approximately one and half years later, some obscure blog found this series and posted about it.  Then a not so obscure blog picked up on it.  Then the jewelry blogs, the feminist blogs, and the media got a hold of it.  All of the sudden, my website was getting 30K+ hits a day!  The work was written about in The Atlantic, The American Prospect, and The New York Times.  Even radio stations were talking about this.  Discussions ensued along with flat out arguing. What counts, before or after taxes?  Should I go for size or quality?  It was entertaining for me to read the comments, the back and forth.  It showed how effective that DeBeers marketing scheme was and how deeply it has become entrenched into our idea of tradition.  I recall quite a few people demanding that three (!) months salary should be spent to prove you love someone.  Then a fateful comment, “… I cannot wait to see the book.” *face palm*

CEO by Lee Gainer

So I did more research, wrote an essay, designed a cover, and created 42 more pages of occupations with their rings and thus Two Months Salary: the book was born.  It is available on Amazon.  The book was a new experience (would do again) and became a mild success.  During my research, I found a video of a young enlisted Marine prepping to ask his girlfriend to marry him.  He showed the receipt for the ring (11K+) before displaying the ring.  I thought that said a lot!  I also discovered where several jewelry sites touted loan programs… in case you didn’t have two months salary on hand at that time. had a two months salary calculator right on the front page.  I was somewhat stunned but mostly amused.  Book completed, I moved on.  Fast forward to 2011 and the call for Decathlon Artist/athletes appeared.  I decided to enter but I wanted to have some sort of overall theme.  I choose my Two Months Salary work as a catalyst.  It had already been a print series and a book, can I morph it into nine more mediums?  I liked that challenge.

I believe that I met that challenge. I am happy with the works I created.  They meet my aesthetic expectations and have an edge of humor about them.  The painting for the Decathlon, Three Proposals, is an example of the process I am using now.  Where before I considered myself open to use any medium warranted by my concepts, I now consider myself a painter.  Having spent six months on all these decathlon pieces in all those very different mediums underscored my desire to become a more medium focused artist.   And now I move forward.

I plan to have my new work on a new site within the next month or so.  If you are curious, feel free to visit.

Hope you enjoy my works and all the pieces from the Decathlon artists.  The show closes on Feb. 5th so hurry on over before it’s gone!

Get your Jam on!

January 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

Want a sneak peek at Lee Gainer’s audio piece for the Decathlon?  Visit to get your jam on now!



October 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

This bit of graffiti, that Lee Gainer found near Brick Lane in London, fits nicely with the theme of her decathlon works.  Curious?  Well, you’ll have to come see the exhibition in January now won’t you.

Finding the hidden ramp…

August 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

I recently visited Lee Gainer’s studio in the Arlington Arts Center and, aside from being impressed with the progress of her work, was struck by her ability to talk about it and even her candor in assessing what she thinks is working and what isn’t. We started by looking at a series of tracing’s Lee has been working on, taking different images and, using tracing paper, outlining contours of them to create an image that is abstract and can be interpreted differently depending on the viewer. From a ballerina or an angel or Lee’s favorite “a Mad Men, 50′s era hair-do”, these works are left to the user to imbue meaning or symbolism, similar to a Rorschach image, as Lee pointed out. Some of my favorite’s from this series are below.

Below is taken from a series that Lee was refreshingly honest about feeling they did not achieve what she wanted them to and didn’t want to pursue them further. The images (collages that combined video screenshots and found images) were inspired by the “white flight phenomeon of the 1960′s and it made me think of Southern culture, which I grew up in, and particularly the Dukes of Hazard…and how in each episode of the show, the good guys would climb in their cars and would always find some sort of ramp and get away. I used that as a sort of metaphor for these white families who would find the ramp whereas the minority familes never did. The more I’ve thought about this series the more it has stuck with me. At the time I don’t think the idea had fully settled with me but, now that it has, I see these works as some of my favorites of what she’s working on. Lee said she’d worked on some of a larger scale but that they didn’t communicate quite as well — I would personally love to see these in a much larger size and wonder if the image of cars leaping from “found” ramps would, in fact, have more of an impact on a larger scale.

File under ‘Ideas in their embyronic form’: Lee brought out a bag of coal that she’d collected. She wasn’t sure exactly how she would use it other than that she knew she wanted to draw with it. “Coal is such an interesting material…extremely raw and unprocessed. You’d think it would crumble in your hands but it has integrity to it’s make-up…it’s solid.” I’m eager to see where she goes with this material next time I visit –  post written by Ryan Holladay.

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