Sadie Lee - an acclaimed yet controversial artist

Phil Kingston, Community and Education Manager at the Abbey Theatre, introduces award winning artist Sadie Lee.

Sadie Lee’s painting ‘Two Actresses’ shows two elderly women in their underwear spooning on a bed. There is nothing sexual in the image; it is domestic, tender, ordinary. It reminds me of the relationship in the play ‘I (heart) Alice (heart) I’ which so moved audiences on the Peacock stage earlier this year. And yet when displayed at Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art in 2009, this innocent and celebratory image of a same sex relationship caused more complaints than the picture it was displayed alongside, Robert Mapplethorpe’s explicit photograph of a man relieving himself in another man’s mouth.

Sadie recounted this anecdote when I’d remarked about how much we’ve moved on from the days when Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) lifestyles couldn’t be explicitly portrayed in art. Not so much she felt; but it hasn’t stopped her own work from continuing to explore the glamour, glory, defiance, pride and poignancy of LGBT lives.

We initially talked to her for advice on how to pioneer LGBT tours in partnership with the Dublin City Gallery – The Hugh Lane. Apart from her painting Sadie works at the National Portrait Gallery, London and has become the go to consultant for LGBT curating. But then we realised The Picture of Dorian Gray is all about the interplay of image and reality, about how a idealising youth conceals a fear of aging and how those who have to live marginalised lives become adept at manipulating masks and poses. All things she could talk about in her own and others work.

Look out for Is S/He one of them; a discussion with Sadie Lee on Thursday 4 October and then ‘Dorian Gray’ tours at the Hugh Lane Gallery from mid November.


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