She received her Master of Arts in 1958 and her Doctor of Philosophy in 1965, both from New York University and continued her post-doctoral work at the prestigious Warburg Institute at the University of London with research fellowships from the American Philosophical Society.
Lee exhibited alongside Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Robert Motherwell among others. Lee's work was reviewed frequently and favorably in the central periodicals of the day including ArtNews, Art in America, The New Yorker, Artforum, Arts Magazine and The New York Times by the widely respected critics. It was presented in exhibitions at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Newark Museum, the Indianapolis Museum, the Winston-Salem Gallery of Contemporary Art and many university gallery settings including New York University, the University of North Carolina and Davidson College, among others. Lee's works are held in the permanent collections of several museums including the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Montclair Art Museum, the Seattle Art Museum, the Newark Museum, the Hudson River Museum, the Weatherspoon Art Museum, the Mint Museum and the Johnson Collection and in many corporate collections such as Chase Manhattan Bank, Citibank and Prudential.
Alongside her lifelong devotion to making art, Lee also pursued a career in academia beginning in 1958. She taught at the University of New York, Potsdam and then Winthrop College in Rock Hill. She spent almost a decade at Drew University where she left as full professor and Chair of the Art Department, then served as the Dean of Visual Arts at the State University of New York at Purchase where in 1975 she left to begin her tenure as President of the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design where she served for eight years before becoming the Director of Arts and Communication and Senior Vice President at the Academy for Educational Development in New York City.
During these years Lee was also a prolific author in a wide range of intellectual disciplines. She published major works on the career of city planner and landscape architect Fredrick Law Olmsted, a cultural history of American fashion, a biography of Willem and Elaine DeKooning, a history of Betty Parsons and her legendary gallery as well as a scholarly "biography" of the Greek goddess Athena.