Jamot Emily Godie


(Lee) (1908–1994),
one of Chicago’s best-known twentieth-century self-taught artists, is remembered for her intense, idealized portraits of glamorous, wide-eyed women and handsomemen. One of her favorite subjects was a profile of a woman with a prominent jaw with her hair pulled into a topknot. A favorite male subject was
Prince Charming, or Prince of the City,
based on a postcard reproduction of a Pablo Picasso portrait of the ballet master Leonid Massin. She also created multiple versions of a waiter with black sideburns and a mustache.Born in Chicago, Godie later married and had three children. Following the death of two of her children and the failure of her marriage, she chose to live without a permanent residence. A street artist for nearly two decades, Godie was a familiar figure in the center of Chicago. She was often found perched on the steps of theschool of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she declared herself a French Impressionist, and sold her work to museum-shop employees, students, and passersby.Godie completed several thousand drawings and paintings, and sometimes embellished them with one or more photographs of herself dressed in dramatic clothing,wearing hats, and with various facial expressions, all taken in photo booths. She worked in a variety of media, including tempera, ballpoint pen, crayon, watercolor, pencil, and combinations of these. She worked mostly on canvas, but also on matte board, bristol board, and poster board. Occasionally, she included pictures frommagazines and newspapers in her work. She carted her work around and stored it, along with her art supplies and material possessions, in rented lockers at busterminals, department stores, and parking garages.After more than forty years, Bonnie Blank, Godie’s only surviving child, traced her birth mother’s whereabouts through a copy of her own birth certificate, and, in1988, mother and daughter were reunited. Though she resisted, Godie eventually agreed to move to a nursing facility. On August 28, 1991, Chicago’s Mayor Daley proclaimed September 6 to October 8 “Lee Godie Exhibition Month,” and urged citizens to “pay homage to this gifted artist.” In 1993 Godie, physically and mentallyinfirm, attended a twenty-year retrospective of her work at the Chicago Cultural Center.
See also
Outsider Art; Painting, American Folk
Bonesteel, Michael. “Lee Godie: Michael Bonesteel Reflects on the Life and Work of the Queen Mother of Chicago Outsider Artists.”
Raw Vision,
vol. 27 (summer 1999): 40–45.Moss, Jessica. “Transformations of the Self.”
The Outsider,
vol. 7, no. 1 (fall 2002): 12–13, 25.