After being hospitalized due to a recent car accident, artist Lee Littlefield was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. He was released a few days ago and died at home, surrounded by friends and family.
Littlefield was born in 1936 in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He received his BA from Florida State University in Tallahassee, and later attended the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, where he received his MA in 1968. Littlefield was a narrative painter for thirty years before moving toward sculpture in 1983.
In 1998, along Interstate 10 near downtown Houston, Littlefield installed the first of his many “Pop-Up” sculptures. Initially a renegade-artist-and-his-pickup venture, the public project grew as Littlefield eventually befriended the proper authorities. They were dubbed “Pop-Ups” by a friend who observed that the colorful sculptures unexpectedly pop into the sightlines of highway drivers. His signature color scheme of blended yellows, reds, and greens have been called “Seussian,” and Littlefield himself once stated that “the look of both my indoor and outdoor sculptures lies between reality and the Little Shop of Horrors.”
Making his sculptures from natural materials like vines, bald cypress wood and bamboo, Littlefield drew inspiration from bayous. In a statement for the 2010 Poissant Gallery two-person exhibition (with his wife Liza Littlefield), he could have been speaking of the artistic impulse and process: “If you think about everything that grows in the bayou, it is reaching for light and bends and twists in very unusual ways.”
Littlefield’s sculptures were collected and shown in many exhibitions over the years. Most recently, he was included in the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston’s No Zoning: Artists Engage Houston (2009). His sculptures were installed at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis last year and at the Indianapolis Art Center only weeks ago.
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