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![...]


Jan 31-Feb 26

Jan 31

It’s been a contemplative few days.

The Facebook comment RFAOH made about my last post, was this:

Lee’s latest report also prompts similar questions to the ones posed in our meeting with Rob at his screening: Are you an “art teacher” or an artist teaching art? Is teaching art to someone, or helping someone to make art, not an art practice? The Tug-o-War on rhetoric continues.

Oddly, it floored me. I’ve never seen my teaching as part of my art practice. Thinking about it, I have no idea why, it just never occurred to me that teaching art would draw from the same well as making art. Which is strange, since in class I talk extensively about creative process, methodology, etc. Teaching certainly helps keep up my technical proficiency with materials I don’t use as regularly in my own work (like oil pastel). And it helps me remember that I am both knowledgeable and competent, which I struggle with sometimes. I’m told I dismiss my knowledge as general knowledge, when in fact it’s not.

This is something I’m going to have to keep thinking about.

Feb 6

It’s Monday again.

I dug our car out from under the weekend’s worth of snow, driving was mad – there was hardly any difference between the roads, sidewalks, or lawns.

Found my laptop! It was in Peter’s rarely used briefcase, neither of us can remember why….

Feb 7

I taught Adult Arts combo last night – we did relief printing. I thought they did great. I’m not sure what they expect, it’s a class where you play with a new media every night. Sometimes I think they want me to walk in with an image and “say we are doing this and this is exactly how.” Which in my mind defeats the point – how would you experiment if you’re doing exactly what I tell you? How are you going to know if you like the process if you only do it the way that I told you too?? I see so many students who want a formula – how is that art?

How could copying my work express who you are??  

It’s currently -28. That’s in Celsius. It’s getting down to -35 tonight. 

Feb 21

This weekend was Family Day. It’s a totally random stat holiday, I think mainly to keep people from going mad in February. But we took it wholeheartedly and spent the weekend just hanging out with our boys. They kill me. They are so sweet and funny, and sometimes it is so hard to set aside all the day to day ‘stuff’ and enjoy them.

The house was ignored and is a disaster.

Feb 26

All day today, Edward has been a tyrant, angry, yelling, crying. Then this evening I sat with him, trying to distract him by reading a story, and he fell asleep in my arms. So tired and still not able to articulate it at all. I sat for ages, just cuddling him. It was the best.

The new class catalog is out for my work. There’s a ‘clay studio’ course being offered. I want to see if I can audit it, but I’m switching my schedule to drop off and pick up Arthur from school. I have a feeling they end at the same time.

We’re still decluttering – I feel like things are messier than ever, even though I know that it’s because I’ve pulled out things that haven’t seen the light of day in over a decade. Two more bags of clothes for donation and a truly bizarre amount of old paperwork. I found two boxes of papers from my masters’ programs. I have no idea why I’ve kept them this long. The recycling is overflowing. There’s a tube of partly finished paintings from my undergrad?! There’s no way they’ll be finished. I haven’t been interested in those themes since the turn of the millennium!

…though I also discovered a forgotten stash of printing paper (BFK Rives) from when my studio was in the basement prior to 2005…so that was kind of cool.

This month has been banal and yet turbulent. No big breakthroughs in any area of art or life. But some small breakthroughs, nonetheless. Some things look like they aren’t going to happen. Some things are open-ended, some hope, some despair.

Mostly, just treading water.

Gratuitous cute cat photo. 🙂
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