Eugene Lemay an American artist best known for his series Strata, Letters, and Navigator of large inkjet prints of rich landscapes which expose the root of written language as a metaphor for the human need to communicate.
He was born in 1960 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to a large Christian-Arab family. In the mid-sixties, his mother Shirley, a Lebanese-Syrian, and his father Joseph of French-Canadian decent, moved his family into a predominantly black neighborhood as an act of solidarity with the civil rights movement.
The move to a new country entailed confronting a foreign language and unfamiliar cultural codes, which resulted in conflicting identities that became a fixture of young Lemay’s world. In 1979 he enlisted in the Israeli military, where he served in a combat unit fighting in the First Lebanon War. It was during this war that he found himself confronting his past in a way that he could not have imagined. His unit took control of the Lebanese village of Tebnine, hometown of Lemay’s maternal grandfather. Upon his discharge from the army he spent another year in Kibbutz Sarid, Sarid, before returning to the United States.
On tall wall-hung panels, on rows of 3-foot-high slabs resembling Minimalist sculpture, even on the screens of electronic devices, the artist imitates the look of writing while simultaneously foreclosing its syntactic structure and communicative drive. More accurately, Lemay changes the function of language from clear and precise articulation of facts, feelings, and interpretations to an invocation of mystery—a kind of modern-day writing on the wall. The near-words and pseudo-sentences imply that the speaker-writer has much to say—much that has been seen and assimilated, much that is welling up emotionally from within—yet chooses to withhold and disguise what may be too painful to impart, too inchoate to process, too dangerous to acknowledge.
Lemay was named to Art & Auction magazine’s Power 100 list. He has exhibited in solo shows at Mike Weiss Gallery in Chelsea, Total Arts Gallery in Dubai and Galeria De Art in Buenos Aires as well as a group show at Art Affairs Gallery in Amsterdam and others.
The artist currently lives and works in New Jersey.