LEE GODIE (1908-1994)


Keeping her true personal history a well-guarded secret Lee Godie crafted a public identity to accompany her artistic talents. Choosing to live on the streets of Chicago, she became a familiar face on the steps of the Art Institute of Chicago. Here Godie would introduce herself as a French Impressionist and would dole out portraits and drawings to willing customers provided you weren’t blond. Godie did not trust blondes and would refuse to sell to them. Much of her work captured the many faces and personalities of Chicago that she observed and met through her daily interactions. Lee Godie held her place on the Institute’s steps for thirty years and became a well-known and memorable figure in Chicago’s lively art scene.

Godie’s crafted image included layered and accessorized costumes with thick stage makeup; she would often pose in photo booths to capture self-portraits. Her artworks were similarly structured using found objects and paper. Her portraits were often done in mottled colors with bold, sure lines and keen attention to details such as fashion labels and styles, jewelry and hats, and any other identifying objects that make the individual unique – Lee Godie captured the life and vitality of Chicago and its inhabitants.