Say hello to Miami-based painter Travon Lee, or as he prefers to call himself, the “Original Dade County Artgoon.”
What’s an Artgoon? Not something nearly as slanderous or self-defeatist as it might first sound, but a humorous, humble expression of gratitude on the artist’s part for arriving in a creative place after struggling against the current for a great deal of time.
Lee was born in Miami in 1991, a tropical, rather mythical metropolis with a volatile history of booms and crashes that is just now beginning to really shine brightly in the glare of the international art community. Its performing arts centre is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, the rejuvenating Wynnwood district sees gallery openings on the regular and Art Basel Miami Beach, like the plus chic of black holes, keeps sucking more and more intergalactic names and personalities into its orbit each December. The scene is blossoming without a doubt, in a fantastical international way. But is there room enough for emerging local talents?
Enter the Artgoon, who dealt with personal demons, cash flow problems and others’ expectations to become something, anything, more practical than an artist in a glittery, competitive universe, and who paints from his personal experiences to encourage others to triumph over whatever disadvantageous circumstances they too face.
Lee began painting in 2011 after watching a video by Moreno Valley artist Reem Heffner, after which he was overpowered by the urge to create. He picked up a cheap WalMart paint kit and set to work on a discarded cardboard box, spilling out a robot destroying cities onto the rough surface. Lee’s girlfriend was thrilled with the result and insisted he continue painting, until the point her motivation became overshadowed by his own to be great. That enraged robot on its tattered support still hangs in Lee’s workspace, a call to creative arms and a reminder to remain down to earth no matter where the path leads.
Among his other influences, Lee cites Jackson Pollock and the lord of those happy little trees, Bob Ross. Two painters who struggled with heaps of personal pain to make action-packed and accessible art respectively. Lee’s art is entirely his own, however, wrought with both natural vibrancy and geometric precision, enigmatic, organically-formed figures and unusual, most agreeable juxtapositions of bold color that force the eye to rove his canvases from corner to corner. Jagged lines and leaky black outlines over flat planes render sensations of unrest in viewers, making Lee’s ambitions utterly palpable.
Currently, Lee is collaborating on a mural with fellow artist Donna Lee Steffens, which incorporates plaster casts of three volunteers’ hands into the painted composition and will bring a cheerful mash-up of two and three dimensions to the halls of Miami’s Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital.
Follow the Artgoon’s creative journey on Instagram: @Opincreatedyou