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  • Writer's pictureShea Stanfield

Finding the Great Way through the Mind

Sengstan (Third Zen Patriarch) wrote, "The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences." Through the millennia of human evolution, the journey of the human psyche guided by ego persists in its preferences; therein is the story of the artist's quest to connect to the collective human heart. Artist Lee Balan, guided by illuminated intuition, passes confidently through the mind into his expression in the arts. Lee works in three mediums: Digital Montage (using Photoshop), Assemblage, and Acrylic Painting. Born in Detroit, Michigan, Lee remembers being surrounded by many creative personalities as his family members. In Junior High, he encountered a teacher who encouraged him to incorporate creativity into his educational considerations. As a result, artists and great philosophers became significant historical figures as Lee moved into his higher-level studies; he credits Marcel Duchamp as one of his favorites.

Lee states, "Growing up in the 1950s, I was influenced by Modern Art, Abstraction, Expressionism, and Architecture." "At the age of nineteen, I admitted myself to a mental hospital suffering from anxiety and depression where I learned to control my symptoms through art and writing." The experience shapes Lee's journey moving forward in his healing and the healing of others. He enrolled in Wayne State University, although the gray skies of Michigan eventually motivated Lee to move west to Long Beach, California.

There he enrolled at California State University, completing his Bachelor's degree in Sociology and Art. Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, was his choice to complete his Graduate Certificate in Counseling. Lee became an Administrator for an organization where he designed and facilitated art groups and curated art shows on an ongoing basis. He also worked as the Art Director and Editor for Beyond Baroque Magazine in Venice, California. Part of Lee's responsibilities while working for the magazine was organizing the open poetry readings. He states, "My focus has always been organizing groups to promote the arts. For many years I was the Director of a Clubhouse Program for adults with mental health challenges. In that position, I designed and facilitated workshops in art and writing. I also worked for the Mental Health Association promoting the arts as a way to manage symptoms like depression and delusions."

Artist Lee Balan is a man who walks his talk when it comes to his commitment to his own and others' mental health healing and guiding them through their artistic expression. Today, Lee creates art from his home and computer in Tucson, Arizona. In the past, he had a studio where he created mixed-media paintings and built assemblages. Lee reflects, "I have always loved the art of collage and assemblage."

The process is the foundation of Lee's present-day work. "My first solo exhibition was called Primalism. I used paints, epoxy resin, and plastic sheets. Primalism was an exploration into the roots of human consciousness." Lee continues to use his art to discover answers to questions about consciousness and life. As a writer and visual artist, Lee claims, "My art tells stories. I have a unique way of creating images using Photoshop, digital filters, and Artificial Intelligence." He explains the process as starting with his drawing or photograph. He distorts or alters the image in Photoshop using several filters to further focus the image on the ideas he wants to express. Lee states, "The digital medium helps me see the world through a different lens; each image I create is a fragment of a larger whole."

"My art tells stories. I have a unique way of creating images using Photoshop, digital filters, and Artificial Intelligence. The digital medium helps me see the world through a different lens; each image I create is a fragment of a larger whole."

Artist Lee Balan currently exhibits in several galleries in Tucson, Arizona; Gallery 2 Sun, the Untitled Gallery, and the Steinfeld Warehouse Gallery. He is also a featured artist on the website. Lee is a member of the Palm Spring Art Museum, where he lived before relocating to Tucson.

Not only is Lee a successful digital artist he is also a published author. His first novel, Alien Journal, was published in 2009, and most recently, in 2020, he published a political satire with 14 digital illustrations and 12 short stories. Lee reminds us, "New discoveries and inventions are altering every aspect of life. We are living at the dawn of Singularity. People are searching for a vision that can alleviate the anxieties of the Twenty-First Century. As an artist, I attempt to venture into unknown territory; therefore, I work with digital art as a contemporary expression. My art is a visual template for concerns about existence, origins, and death; what is your/our story?" In reflection, "Story is far older than art, science, and psychology and will always be the elder in the equation no matter how much time passes." Clarissa Pinkola Estes


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