Emilie Lee is a classically trained painter, senior fellow at the Hudson River Fellowship, and instructor at the Grand Central Atelier in NYC. Drawing on her background as a rock climber and adventure athlete, she travels to remote locations to study landscapes that are critical in the field of conservation. She creates drawings, notes, and plein air paintings while on location which she later uses to inform her large-scale canvases in the studio. Her work is a distillation of time, memory, and a close observation of the natural world. Lee handcrafts each piece of artwork using time-honored techniques tested by museum conservationists to ensure the archival quality of each piece.

“Over the past two years, I’ve made three different trips to study and paint on the American Prairie Reserve in Montana’s Northern Great Plains region. I began this project in 2015 when I was living in NYC and looking for a meaningful story that combined my interests in wilderness conservation, outdoor adventure, and plein-air painting. Located south of Saskatchewan and north of the Missouri River, this zone of eastern Montana has seen very little human impact which makes it feel eerily removed from time. At nearly 3.5 million acres, it is one of only four large-scale intact prairie ecosystems in the world – ninety percent of the ground has never been plowed. The American Prairie Reserve is a privately funded conservation organization that is purchasing privately owned land when it comes on the market and then merging it with with leased government parcels. The reserve is currently a patchwork of parcels totaling almost 400,000 acres, and each year it continues to grow. During my time on the reserve, I worked with a wildlife research group from Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation to get some hands-on experience that would inform my artwork.”