Lee Gainer

My name is Lee Gainer and I am a visual artist in the metro DC area (USA).  My work uses found and created imagery to visually analyze social rules, hidden messages, the psychology behind these ideas and beliefs, and how they alter our behavior.  I am interested in exploring how the possible hidden messages in modern media (commercials, advertising, the web, billboards, etc.) can manipulate us in how we define things, such as what beauty should look like or what success should be.  There are certain unwritten rules that many of us know and live by and I am curious as how they came to be.

For instance, many in the US know of the two month salary rule for buying diamond engagement rings.  It turns out that this was a marketing scheme created by DeBeers in the early 20th century.  They began with one month's salary and then later upped it to two.  Today, the two month's rule has become a romantic tradition in America.  A tradition where a man's love for his future spouse is judged by the size of a shiny rock or rather, what is the bling factor.  I created a print series and a book, both called Two Months' Salary, that shows groups of engagement rings based on the average salaries of several occupations.  I expected to see a difference in the rings according to their price tag but many of them look very similar.  The 2 sets (husband and wife) of 20 prints are 10" x 8".  The book is available through my website.

Another series I created is entitled Unhidden.  As I searched for images to support my theories for other works, I began to notice little things in the newspaper coupon supplements.  The messages there are subtle but, I believe, influential.   Below are three of the 30 painted works that are approximately 10" x 7" (they differ a bit).

Hidden messages aren't just in advertisements.  As a prior band geek and volleyball player from back in the day, I understand the feel of putting on some polyester uniform and being surrounded by those doing the same.  There's a certain feeling of acceptance that comes with it.   You may not be friends with everyone there but you do all belong together, you share similar ideas or interests, and by dressing the same, you communicate that everyone else.    Each print is 20" x 25".

I have spent the last three years house hunting.  In that time, I have visited many real estate agent's websites and received a lot of mail from them trying to win my business.  I noticed that many of them posed for their business portrait (used on their sites, business cards, literature, etc.) by being on the phone.  It made me consider what they are trying to tell me.  Is it an action pose?  Are they easier to reach?  More professional?  Is the perception of hard work better then the result of hard work?  (For those who hide the minesweeper when the boss walks in, the answer is yes).   I searched for more images like this from actual office workers (no stock photos) and decided to print out 30 and paint them to isolate the "on the phone" gesture.  This series is called Workin' Hard.  There are 30 portraits total, each measuring 10" x 8".

I have always been interested in advertising and packaging due to many grocery store visits when I was a kid.  My Mom would be armed with her carefully cut-out coupons, neatly organized, and we'd go up and down every isle.  I grew up in a relatively normal, blue collar American household that strived to maintain the appearance of middle class America, as defined by the media of the time.  We didn't have the internet then but still we were surrounded by images telling us what to wear and how to live if we wanted to be perceived as attractive, successful, and normal.  Now we have the web and advertising has found its way into every nook and cranny of our lives.  It is through this barrage that we receive cues, as a society, about what is acceptable and what is not. I am intrigued by how these pictures, while commercial in nature, can manipulate us culturally.

If you'd like to take a look at the rest of my work, please visit my site, Lee Gainer. If you are in the neighborhood, stop by the Arlington Arts Center where I am a resident artist, and check out our current exhibits.   If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me from my site.

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