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Westmoreland art museum makes New York Times' Best Art Books of 2021 list

click to enlarge Westmoreland art museum makes New York Times' Best Art Books of 2021 list
Image: Courtesy of Westmoreland Museum of American Art
Simple Pleasures: The Art of Doris Lee catalogue by Westmoreland Museum of American Art
An art museum in Greensburg in Westmoreland County just received recognition from the New York Times for a book about the museum's latest exhibition.

The Westmoreland Museum of American Art announced that NYT critics selected the catalogue for Simple Pleasures: The Art of Doris Lee as one of the Best Art Books of 2021. The 240-page book contains illustrations, essays, and more covering Simple Pleasures, a current show featuring 70 works of art spanning the 40-year career of Lee, considered a leading figure in the Woodstock Artist’s Colony.

Roberta Smith, the co-chief art critic for NYT, chose the Simple Pleasures catalogue as one of her favorites, writing that the book “should begin to end” Lee’s obscurity.

"Our mission is to offer compelling, meaningful cultural experiences that open the door to new perspectives, and I think that does really come through in the catalogue," says Westmoreland chief curator, Barbara L. Jones, who organized Simple Pleasures with Melissa Wolfe, curator of American Art at the Saint Louis Art Museum. "We have four different aspects of Doris’s career represented in the catalogue offering different ways of looking at her body of work, so you have those differing perspectives. But, we are also offering our audiences the opportunity to learn about an artist who was pretty much unknown to the country. She was known in her lifetime, but then her notoriety slipped away."

Born in 1905, Lee worked as both a fine and a commercial artist. A press release explains that in the decades after World War II, Lee “responded to the rise of Abstract Expressionism with skill and agility and her own sense of grace, developing her own visual style.” It adds that Lee’s body of work, which includes paintings, drawings, prints, and commissioned designs in fabric and pottery, often depicts “domestic subjects and everyday life in a folk art style.”

Jones explains that Westmoreland worked on the catalogue with London publisher D Giles. Pittsburgh artist Brett Yasko worked on the design for the book.

In addition to her fine artworks, Simple Pleasures — currently on view through Jan. 9, 2022 — also features a selection of product advertisements Lee created for the American Tobacco Company and General Foods.

“Reconsidering the art of Doris Lee allows us to realize the often-overlooked complexities of the American art world during the heyday of Abstract Expressionism,” Wolfe stated in a press release. “Lee is an exemplar of how many leading female and figurative artists found outlets to produce extraordinary works of art that challenge the artists’ marginalization both in their day and often still today. Lee’s mastery in both the commercial and the fine art worlds reflects the remarkable breadth of her abilities.”

The Simple Pleasures: The Art of Doris Lee catalog is now available to purchase through the Westmoreland website and in the museum's gift shop.

The exhibition, which opened on Sept. 26, is currently on view for those who are interested in seeing it in person.

"I’m proud of everybody who worked on the catalogue: all the authors, all the production people, the publisher, the designer, and everybody on staff," says Jones. "I mean, it’s just a really exciting honor for us at the Museum, but also for Doris Lee. She’s getting the recognition I think that she deserves through this exhibition, so I feel really great about that."

Simple Pleasures: The Art of Doris Lee. Continues through Jan. 9, 2022.  Westmoreland Museum of American Art. 221 N. Main St., Greensburg. Free. Registration required. thewestmoreland.org