Referred to by her peers as ‘the defiant artist’, Lee Lozano (Lenore Knaster) was born and raised in Newark during the 1930’s. She studied philosophy at the University of Chicago and it wasn’t until after her divorce from Mexican-born architect Adrian Lozano, that she enrolled at The Art Institute of Chicago to earn her B.F.A.
Lee’s work is described as being ‘wildly expressionistic’ and ‘raw’. She referred to her drawings as ‘comix’ and they often depicted, suggestively, power tools and other materials like wrenches and screws accompanied by sexual innuendos and provocative text. Although this may not be of much shock today, Lee’s conceptualization and theories on art and art making were advanced for her time. Growing up a ‘squeaky clean’ woman accustomed to sweater sets and pearls also added to Lozano’s appeal.
But, Lee’s eccentricities didn’t stop there. In the late 1960s, she began her more conceptual projects like General Strike Piece and Decide to Boycott Women in which she cut off all communication with the women in her life, including friends, gallerists, fellow artists and supporters as well as supporter, feminist and art critic Lucy Lippard. Art historian, Helen Molesworth, would later go on to explain that Decide to Boycott Women was a response to patriarchy and capitalism.
In the late 1990s, Lee became obscure and nearly non-existent in the art world. She was diagnosed with inoperable cervical cancer following her eviction from a studio in SoHo and a move back into her parent’s house in Dallas, Texas. Unknown to anyone else in the art world, Lozano continued to work on conceptual performances and projects like Masturbation Investigation and Dialogue Piece. To this day, it is unknown whether or not her retreat into hiding was a personal choice or the result of a conceptual art piece known as Drop Out Piece which consisted of removing herself from the New York art scene until she eventually disappeared.
Even in death, Lee Lozano’s mysteriousness continues: she chose to be buried in an unmarked grave outside of Dallas. Since her passing, Lee has been the subject of a few retrospectives and books but she will always be more attuned to that of a ‘cult figure’ with an insurmountable unusualness that, in turn, defined her as a work of art.