Lee Oldford Churchill, Canada

Residency Period: Sept 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017


Bio

Born and raised in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, Lee began her formal training at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook, NL. In 1998 she transferred to the University of Alberta in Edmonton, majoring first in sculpture, then switching to painting and printmaking. At U of A she earned her BFA with Distinction in 2000 and then went on to earn a M.A. (Art Conservation) and M.A. (Art History) from Queen’s University, Kingston, ON in 2000 and 2006 respectively. She currently resides in Calgary, AB, Canada, where she works as the Paper Conservator at the Glenbow Museum and as an instructor at Wildflower Art Centre, City of Calgary. Her current work utilizes watercolour, pastel, acrylic, pen, and other media.


On-hiatus Proposal Summary

Working full time and parenting, Lee has struggled to maintain her “professional artist” status as designated by Canada Council for the Arts and other public institutions, which also qualifies her to apply for funding to sustain an artist career. She feels trapped in the circle of “not enough work=not enough sales and exposure=not enough money=having to be employed=not enough time=not enough work”.

While making art has been part of who she is, the pressure and stress of “being engaged” with her practice has driven her to the point where she feels her whole life may be happier if she just stopped, if she gave up defining herself as an artist-who-does-other-work-to-support-themselves and embraced being solely an arts-industry-employee.

Through her participation in RFAOH, she wants to give herself permission not to produce art, to ultimately examine if letting go of “being an artist” will make her feel less pressure and stress, and return some joy to this aspect of her life. Her requested residency period overlaps with her son’s school year during which time she may participate in some activities without the guilt of her inner voice screaming ‘if I have any time I should be making art’.

Although she is hesitant to set out too detailed a plan for fear of creating a high pressure situation similar to the one that she is in now as an artist, one of her on-hiatus activities may be taking a class in clay. It is an area that has no association to her past art practice, and she wants to see if she can engage meaningfully with the process of creating, or whether it has become so entwined with stress/anxiety that any attempt to create is a trigger for feelings of failure, anxiety and inadequacy about her self-identification as an artist.

She hopes this hiatus would give her time and clarity to make a decision whether defining herself as an artist is worth it, or if not being an artist is better for her mental health, family life, and relationships. If she decides to return to art, she hopes it would bring fresh inspiration and perspective.


Final Report

My experience as an RFAOH resident has been amazing. It is a cause for ongoing and future reflection that having an external, and thereby legitimizing, force say it was 'ok' not to make art, I let go of an immense amount of stress and gut-wrenching anxiety. I am not entirely comfortable with the idea that I need an outside agency validate my thoughts and actions.

I did the clay class I set out in my proposal and as I hoped it showed me that I am still in love with artmaking and am so very happy when I give myself over to the process. I had thought I would review Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way" as well but I decided (after a few months of seriously avoiding getting it off the shelf) that my reluctance was something I should listen to. If I was dragging my heels, forcing myself to re-read it was against the spirit of my hiatus.

With my mother-in-law passing away and then my father being incredibly ill, my hiatus ended up looking very different than anyone could have thought. I spent a full two months of it away from everything focusing on the people who truly matter rather than immersed in the 'daily grind'. Both the hiatus and these events have drastically altered my perceptions and goals.

I still feel battered and broken. But there's been a release - like when you have a bad tooth and once the dentist fills it you realize how miserable it was and now you're a bit boneless.

I'm on the mend.

I'm human and I have bad habits.

I feel like my hiatus had changed me and that I won't try to shoehorn myself and my work into a mold we don't fit. But I know it is going to take constant vigilence to not fall into anxiety and let it push me into areas I'm not happy with. Whether my hiatus will change the look of my work, I don't know yet. But it will certainly change the spirt behind it.


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recent comments

On Jun 21 2017, Lee Churchill commented on June 20: If I knew where I wasn't supposed to be, I wouldn't go!! :-P If you've got some idea of how I can be[...]

On Jun 21 2017, co-director (s) commented on June 20: Happy (fairly) big Birthday Lee! (: Twack on, all year! I think it's the matter of what is "everyt[...]

On Jun 12 2017, Lee Churchill commented on June 8: :-) It definitely sounds like a fascinating talk. With the idea of going for an MFA, S's situation[...]

On Jun 9 2017, co-director (m) commented on June 8: I wish we had a recording of Tehching's panel discussion in Venice last month where the convergence [...]

On May 25 2017, co-directors (s) commented on May 8: Family emergency sucks... Hope things are alright with yours![...]


Nov 8

Nov 8

So both my boys have had their birthdays – 4 and 8! Amazing. They were super stoked. I find it pretty fun but also melancholy.

boyssleeping

Every new stage is (mostly) fascinating, but also it means the ending of other stages – neither says ‘bluebellies’ for blueberries anymore or blellow! For yellow. There’s no more random sitting because they’ve lost their balance, or insane babbling that they are convinced is real conversation. Though Edward did decide to but small ‘Nerds’ candies up his nose last week. And Arthur figured out how to use a solar panel to make the hand generator in his electric circuits set spin backwards…SO there’s still plenty of things to look forward too.

More pieces came out of the kiln, and I worked on a sculpture – an Atlantic puffin, the provincial bird for my native Newfoundland. The other pieces were really just fun to work on, the puffin was too, until last night when I needed to hollow out the centre so it would dry evenly and fire properly.  It was terrifying as I ‘gutted’ my puffin! I had to use a wire to cut off its chest – under the chin, along the wings and out horizontally over the feet. Then use a tool to dig around the inside, hoping not to puncture a side or leave any area too thick.

Truly sweat worthy stuff. 😀

img_3852 img_3811

And yes, I am blocking the US elections from my awareness. I will find out tomorrow if I have to sweat over that.

*dang*

It’s taken me longer to write then I had thought. It’s now the 9th and Trump won. I’m speechless. I have friends and family who are American or who live in the States. I have no idea what this is going to mean for their marriages, their immigration statuses, their healthcare. I had to explain to Arthur that what he had heard, that Trump said he’d build a wall to separate the US and Canada, was true but the concept was absurd. The wall would, literally, be the length of the Great Wall of China. The idea of building it along a border that hasn’t seen a military skirmish in 200 years is asinine.

And now it is currently the 16th!

I can’t believe I started this post over a week ago. We had Remembrance Day, did a big declutter project, got ready for guests, greeted said guests, have a sick little boy (a 4-year-old with a head cold is both unbearably cute and tragic), and did all the normal acts of life – work, school, meals…and laundry. The never ending piles of laundry.

We had snow. Which is past due but still unwelcome. I am not a winter person.

It’s five weeks to Christmas and I haven’t given it a single thought. Zero prep. Zero anticipation. I normally try to do something handmade each year. Don’t think I’m going to manage it at the moment. I haven’t even started pumping the boys for Christmas present ideas.

I started reading a couple books (the Tao of Watercolour and The Zen of Creative Painting by Jeanne Carbonetti) that I happened across at my teaching job. I’m not finding them engrossing, a couple ideas I want to try out with students, but a little esoteric for me overall. Part of the Zen of Painting involves Jungian analysis of mandalas. I struggle with the idea that a universal system of archetypes can be imposed on individual artistic choices, especially if choices are limited by say the palette available in a box of oil pastels. Why did I choose yellow? Well, because out of 12 pastels it worked best in that spot? If I had access to 100’s of colours would I have chosen yellow, or specifically that yellow? Who knows?

I found my copy of “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron to reread. I haven’t cracked it yet though.

In clay class I trimmed the wheel projects from last week. So funny. So crooked and wobbly!  I also got back some buttons I made! Just a little experiment to play with glazing. I tried painting the bowls and some buttons with slip, should be pretty cool. Supposedly they will come back royal blue and black. And after class I made more button-like-thingys! I have a love for all things wee and so I made tons of little bits – everything from tiny tiny 1 cm stars to 3 cm circles.  With rectangles and ovals as well.

pot1
Photo credit goes to Susan Thorpe, the Ceramics Technician – Thanks Susan!

pot2

Nov 17 – this is getting ridiculous! I need to get this posted.

Nov 21 – I lost my password and had to get it replaced (thanks!) and then it was the weekend. Saturday morning I taught. Such goofballs for students in those classes! Way more interested in chatting about the latest books or Pokémon than focusing on making art. That afternoon I painted with my boys. Also goofballs! Sunday…what did we do Sunday? It was just yesterday but I’m blanking. 

Saturday night I got to try out an experiment with polymer clay that I’ve been excited for. I made a plaster mold from an egg, I love the sheer decadence of Faberge eggs, and thought maybe I could play around with the form. It sucked. I used a translucent ‘flesh’ colour and it was gross. I’ll try again with another colour (iridescent royal blue?) but am thinking that maybe polymer clay won’t be a good base for this project. There’s a new ‘real’ clay (vs. polymer clay) that’s come out called “Polar Ice” (https://plainsmanclays.com/data/MPOLAR1.HTM), some of the ceramicists I know are playing with it. I might see if I can get some.    

Ideas and more ideas, always ideas.

 

Leave a Comment (2)

Lee Churchill wrote on Nov 23:

It's so much fun! I'm having a whale of a time. For me right now it's definitely not art and at the moment I think it's too exciting to be meditation but it is awesome play. And I'm realizing I really needed that. My 'art-stress' really disconnected me from the fundamental joyful engagement I used to have - the love of making for the sake of making. The pottery has been amazing to revive the fizzy excitement I get from starting a new project and working through all the technical and aesthetic challenges. It's euphoric.
And yes, hopefully I'll be happy enough with some things that they will end up as Christmas presents. :-)

co-director (S) wrote on Nov 23:

Isn't pottery fun? I've been deciding if I'll call what I'm doing now art or Etzy or christmas presents or meditation.