Paintings by Michelle Lee @ BankRI

BankRI Turks Head Gallery


Adding Color: Paintings by Michelle Lee

July 5 through August 1, 2018


A Gallery Night Providence reception will take place on 19 July from 5 to 8:30 pm featuring live music by Mark Armstrong and light hors d’oeuvres.


Traffic whizzes by the nondescript office building on Hartford Avenue in Johnston.  Inside on the second floor is the office of Michelle Lee – interior designer and painter.  The office is small, not more than fifteen feet square, and bears little resemblance to the bland exterior.

Color demands attention. Signs proclaiming “Life is art, live yours in color” and “Color outside the lines” hold court on two aquamarine walls.  A toasty orange fills the remaining walls and contrasts the blue-green symphony. Lee’s color field paintings lean haphazardly up against the furniture and hang on the aforementioned walls.  Carpet and tile samples complete the look.

Born in Israel, Lee grew up in Cranston and later attending the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale.  Her route to painting was circuitous. Lee started out in visual merchandising working for Macy’s and Filenes at the malls in Warwick.  She dressed mannequins, designed windows and created Christmas displays. On the side, she began to decorate people’s houses and slowly, one client at a time, built a business in interior design.  Today she is the proud owner of Michelle Lee Design and is at the moment juggling 14 different design projects, both commercial and residential.

When a client needed some paintings, Lee thought she might be able to step up and fill the need.  She had taken classes to help her produce layouts and sketches for her design projects. She had completed a few paintings as presents for relatives that she felt were successful. Lee thought that as the designer, she would be able to gauge what kind of artwork worked best in the space.  The client loved the paintings she created and Lee loved making them. A new creative avenue had just opened up for her.

Lee has a lot on her plate as a business woman, interior designer, wife and the mother of three teenage boys.  Yet she still finds the time to paint. She works in her kitchen, in her office and in class at the Blue Door Art Studio in Smithfield, RI under the direction of Claudia Venditto.  In fact, all three of her sons also take classes at Blue Door in animation, advanced portfolio and fashion design.

“I’ve never been an in the box type of person,” says Lee.  “I’m not going to sit and sketch a bowl of fruit. I’m drawn to the abstract.”  She uses rich bold colors that suggest rather than define imagery. Paintings have the air of a bucolic landscape or an underwater seascape, but are crafted entirely from her imagination.  Her love of color is evident, her familiarity and ease with strong color combinations come through loud and clear.

It’s not surprising that a woman whose business tag line is “Bringing color into your life” should paint such exuberant paintings.  It is surprising that she has been able to achieve a degree of success so quickly. Wave if you see a car with the license plate “color” on it.  It’s Lee on her way.

Exhibit hours are Monday through Wednesday 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Thursday and Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 401-574- 1330 or check

The BankRI Galleries featured the artworks of Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts contemporary artists and are curated by Paula Martiesian, a Providence-based artist and arts advocate. For additional information and images, contact Paula at 401-521-7634 or at