Lee Mullican Presence 1955

  • Not on view

Drafted into the army in 1942, Mullican despaired: "I remember when I took the train from Oklahoma City to Fort Sill to begin basic training, I cried most of the way. I just felt like it was the end of the earth. It was the end of the world for me." While in the army, however, he was able to study topography and mapmaking, activities later evoked in the graphic marks and patterns of his artwork. Stationed outside Washington, D.C., he visited museums, where he was exposed to Surrealism and Expressionism, which would become pervasive influences in his paintings and wooden sculptures, as would the indigenous sculpture of the Pacific Northwest and the American Southwest. Natural and everyday materials—such as sticks and thread—come together to create masklike forms, imbued with magic and ritual qualities. The construction is, as he noted, "part of a 'ceremony'—one that can't last forever."

Gallery label from Soldier, Spectre, Shaman: The Figure and the Second World War, October 24, 2015-March 20, 2016.
Painted wood
36 1/8 x 17 3/8 x 1 1/4" (91.5 x 44.1 x 3.2 cm)
Mr. and Mrs. Roy R. Neuberger Fund
Object number
© 2023 Estate of Lee Mullican
Painting and Sculpture

Installation views

We have identified these works in the following photos from our exhibition history.

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit https://www.moma.org/research/circulating-film.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].