Hughie Lee-Smith (1915–1999) Festive Vista, 1980 Oil on canvas 15 × 13 in. The Studio Museum in Harlem; Museum purchase and a gift from E. Thomas Williams and Auldlyn Higgins Williams 1997.9.17
Hughie Lee-Smith’s paintings explore the tensions created in an atmosphere of physical and psychological alienation. Here, the tied ribbons and fading colors of the rooftop mural suggest that people were once present in this now-abandoned scene. Through compositional techniques—including shadowing, perspectival manipulation, and the use of symbols such as the question marks at center—Lee-Smith creates a sense of isolation that speaks to the ambiguity felt by those on the margins of society.