Tying down art in my own public Idaho

Lily Martina Lee

2 December 2019

Lily Martina Lee is inspired by the regional variations across the Mountain West in the way folks secure their loads.

(A message to the reader.)

This concept started when having car trouble at a rest stop in Western Nebraska on a long road trip. A man in a small pickup with Washington plates helped us. He was hauling what looked like a mattress, which was neatly wrapped in a tarp and tightly secured with about six heavy-duty cam straps, two of which could have probably held a dirt bike. I thought to my self “now that’s a Washingtonian!”

I am originally from Washington and, when I lived in the Midwest, staff at a lumber yard actually made fun of me for using a ratchet strap to haul a small load. I have always done this, and I explained that, where I’m from, it’s a $400 ticket for an unsecure load.

I now live in Idaho and I drive a pickup daily for mundane errands. When I have the opportunity to use it to actually haul something, I am eager to use my yellow spider web net, my orange ratchet straps, and a neon pink flag of survey tape for extra-long material. I keep these items neatly stowed with my ratchet straps perfectly spiralled in pouches made from old socks like my dad, a contractor from Eastern Washington taught me.

Handed down to me from my aunt, my bright orange ratchet straps are like a form of regalia. When I engage in the practice of hauling something, I am excited to show them off. I take care in neatly building a load, creating a structural composition as I arrange and secure my straps, neatly tucking in the loose ends in and double-checking everything as I go.

When I’m buying steel in Boise, Idaho, the staff actually help me engage in my tying down ritual if they’re not busy. Without any conversation they can see what I’m doing and instinctively join in, hooking things down just where I would have.


Lily Martina Lee is an American artist who was born in Pullman, Washington. She earned a BFA in Fibers and a BA in American Indian Studies from the University of Washington, and a MFA in Sculpture from the University of Oregon. Lee has exhibited her work in the Ukraine, Portugal, Hungary, Italy and Greece and in numerous exhibitions throughout the United States including Northwest Art Now at the Tacoma Art Museum and the Commuter Biennial in Miami, Florida. She lives and works in Boise, Idaho where she is an Associate Professor of Sculpture at Boise State University.


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