Image of Caroline Lee used in the French press when she arrived in Paris on a Fulbright grant
Caroline Lee (DIP 1957) embodied SAIC’s Core Value, We Are Explorers. With two degrees in hand—one from the University of Chicago and the other from SAIC—Lee ventured twice to Paris with Fulbright grants to study art. Though she returned to the United States briefly in 1974 to teach sculpture at the University of California–Irvine, Lee continued to live and work in Paris, exhibiting in salons and winning commissions for public monumental sculptures. In 2012 the Muskegon Museum of Art in Michigan curated her show Songs of Steel and Other Dreams, exhibited again in 2013 at the Krasl Art Center in St. Joseph, Michigan.
Her metal sculptures are known for their long arches and dynamic angles. A Chicago native with deep roots in Michigan as well, she continued to create work for both Paris’s public spaces as well as those in Chicago—her sculpture Eagle of the Rising Star can be viewed at the John Marshall Law School in the Loop. Her work both as an artist and an alumna epitomized the spirit of adventure and experimentation SAIC instills within its students. As she told the Chicago Tribune in 2004: "I think of myself as a transformer exercising a transformation on current flowing from me to the outside…I've always progressed in my skills by taking on jobs I didn't know how to do."
In 2006 Lee’s artistic career earned her the prestigious Del Duca Prize from the French Académie des Beaux-Arts, where she became a sculpture correspondent.
I met Caroline when I began attending the Art Institute in 1953. when we were in the beginning 1st year program. I very soon recognized her talent, intensity and dedication.
Four years later, shortly after we graduated, I was drafted and she won a Fullbright to study in Paris. When stationed in Germany I visited Paris and arranged to meet her for dinner. I remember the evening very clearly, meetng her on a street corner and going to a charming bistro for a meal. She was speaking her, I believe, newly acquired French and I could feel her excitement and sense of this new chapter in her life opening up.
We corresponded a few times but then I lost touch with her till about ten years ago, when I again met her for an evening in Paris. She showed me photos of her many sculpture projects and I was again aware and impressed by her focus and dedication to her work. She seemed to have, in those years since I'd last seen her, fulfilled and solved her life in a most satisfying way.