Walking a high wire: An OKC sculptor who’s spent the past 20 years out on a limb

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- The twists and turns of plot, of fate, of life, and even a piece of bent wire.

Artist Nathan Lee plays with all of them starting with one turn and a pile of recycled napkins.

"I'll see something in it," he says, "whether it's the wire curved this way or that way. I follow it almost like it's a rabbit trail."

It's been almost twenty years since Lee started playing around like this.

We first caught up with him in 2008 asking for extra napkins at an Oklahoma City Taco Bell.

"If you can recycle it and it's paper," states Lee, "I'm probably using it."

Those wire supports and paper mod podge were already turning into a kind of human tree hybrid, long-limbed, thin, looking like they were moving in a breeze.

Nathan insists, "It's pretty intuitive. I look up and wherever that wire curves, however it curves, I just try to add onto it with another length of wire, and another length of wire."

His pieces are more elaborate now, bigger.

The branches stretch longer, but the human form remains.

This one looks like a dance in mid-leap.

When he's busy in his apartment his skinny friends start to crowd for space taking up both couch and countertop, even space on the floor.

"She'll hang all the way down like a centerpiece," he demonstrates.

But he keeps working with them until they start to grow on him a bit too much.

Nathan says, "You know when you're done when you don't want to give it away. You don't want to give it away. That's when it's ready to sell."

Lee's sculptures might be skinny but it's strange how his figure drawings go the other direction.

His latest phase in more traditional art is a three-book series he thinks of as the Peanuts gang all grown up.

He calls this group The Frozen Tundra.

"They're doing all the things, they're faced with all the things, that adults are," he says.

Eventually, every artist is forced to part with their creations if only to make room for more.

Nathan Lee stays out on his creative limb hanging quite comfortably on the edge, following wherever those tiny branches will stretch.

For more information on the art of Nathan Lee, click here.

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