Photos by Katie Springer
Animal bones and local culture influence an artist in residence
Lee Emma Running makes sculptures and drawings using roadkill animal bones, glass, paper, fabric, fur, raw pigments and gold. Her sculptures, installation and performance work are deeply connected to place.
During her residency, she is continuing a project about repairing deer bones, primarily roadkill deer bones, with cast glass. She’s also embarked on a new project using tires, and is working on two large proposals for drawings for window installations.
“Something that I’m really interested in is human-animal relationships, and I think working ranches are an amazing space to interact with people who interact with animals,” said Running, who’s based in Omaha, Nebraska and whose work has been exhibited internationally.
Much of her work has to do with the environment. Recently she’s been fascinated with synanthropes, wild animals or plants that benefit and dwell around people’s human-altered surroundings such as homes, apartment buildings, gardens, farms, roadsides and garbage dumps. At the ranch, she’s found some animal bones, and she believes that knowledge of bone structure is an integral part of drawing.
“I think the armatures of our bodies reveal a huge amount about what is going on on the surface,” she said. “I think a lot of my comparative anatomy studies have definitely engaged this.”
Through her residency, she’s been connected with locals who have helped spark her creative interests, including an Oregon Department of Transportation official involved in creating one of the first wildlife corridors in the state. The corridors provide safe passage for animals forced to navigate ecosystems fragmented by roads.
“We had amazing conversations about wildlife crossings and what they mean for highways and species retention,” said Running. Local photographer Lynn Woodward helped her find animal bones in the area. Running was inspired by a Roundhouse Foundation and PMRCAA-sponsored public lecture in Sisters by award-winning independent radio and podcast journalist Ashley Ahearn, and her talk called “Riding and Recording the Urban/Rural Divide.” She enjoyed meeting folks at a local concert, too.
“It’s been great, and I’m grateful to be here,” she said.
Lee Emma Running’s training as a traditional papermaker allows her to manipulate materials and process as well as maintain the discipline of a fine craft. Her sculptures, installation and performance work are deeply connected to place.
Her work has been exhibited at the National Taiwan University of the Arts, Taipei, Taiwan; The Morris Graves Museum, Eureka, Calif.; The Dubuque Museum of Art, Dubuque, Iowa; Western Carolina University Fine Art Museum, Cullowhee, North Carolina; the Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, Iowa, and The Charlotte Street Foundation, Kansas City, Kansas.
Since 2013 she has collaborated with Denise Bookwalter, the Founder and Director of Small Craft Advisory Press, to create artists books and installations that are held in numerous public and private collections. Their most recent book, Fashioning, was completed in 2019.
She taught at Grinnell College in Central Iowa from 2005 to 2020 and was a professor in the Studio Art Department. Her BFA is from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn. She holds an MFA in sculpture from the University of Iowa. Her work is represented by Olsen Larson Galleries in Des Moines, Iowa.