My Ambivalent Lover;
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Michael Lee could draw before he could walk. Art has been his passion for as long as he can remember, and his parents encouraged that desire: Instead of being sent to a regular high school, Lee's parents agreed to let him attend Norwich Free Academy in his hometown of Norwich, Conn., to nurture his artistic talents. From there, he moved on to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, where he was quickly swept up in the Big Apple's social whirlwind. He met personal icons such as Diana Ross, Catherine Deneuve and Jacqueline Onassis. "I wasn't in Kansas anymore," Lee quips.
Lee submitted his portfolio to the hip Bloomingdale's department store shortly after graduating from the Fashion Institute. Floored that such a sophisticated portfolio could belong to such a young person, Lee was hired on the spot as an assistant manager. Lee hasn't looked back since. He went on to set up new shops for Donna Karan, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren, and was commissioned to design 12 panels for the window displays at Macy's flagship store in Manhattan's Herald Square. He went on to work as a stylist for Bergdorf Goodman's and headed back to school, earning an associate's degree in computer illustration design.
Lee's career flourished even while he was coping with his own HIV diagnosis, which came in 1989, shortly after his stint with Bloomingdale's. To help him come to grips with his diagnosis, as well as the loss of many friends to HIV, Lee turned to art. The series of paintings he completed during this time eventually became part of an exhibition at the Cyclorama Gallery in Boston.
Lee continues to enjoy living and working in New York City as an illustrator and graphic artist. For several years, Lee's personal art took a back seat due to health problems, but now that he's doing better, he's begun to focus on his artwork again. When he's not creating art, Lee works with various community organizations, such as The Neutral Zone, a center for homeless gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teens. In his spare time he meditates, sings, dances and practices Tai Chi.
Click here to e-mail Michael Lee.