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.
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.
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.
I love lights, treat foods, music, the tree, the presents (to a degree…).
I love the preparations – cooking, and making, and visiting Christmas markets.
One of our biggest traditions is unpacking the tree and setting it up. We take out all the special ornaments and talk about where each one came from – these from Mommy’s Aunt for each of the boys’ first Christmas’s…this bell Mommy gave to Daddy…this was from Nanny and Poppy… each has a story and memory. This year it’s going to be melancholy. Over 20 years more than a few came from my mother-in-law. Telling those stories is going to be hard. I always want my boys to remember the joy and adoration she felt for them. But I know Ned at 4 will have no solid memories of her. Only shadow memories of the stories we’ve repeated so often he thinks he remembers. That hurts my heart in ways I can’t even articulate.
I thought this was going to be a cheerful post about the Christmas markets we went to this weekend and how we all loved it.
But apparently not.
Some of my clay came back, fortunately not too dark. The rest will hopefully go though the kiln this week.
(and yes, I posted this Dec 5th. I seem to be making a habit of writing and then posting late. 😥 )
This has been a good week.
Despite lots of things going on I could feel anxious about I feel cheerful and marginally hopeful. Always a good feeling – and then my dark side says “We’ll see how long it lasts” – but whatever, today it is good.
I made several things – we did glazing in Clay class so that was kind of thrilling (last day sadly but yeah, I work there so I can keep doing more!) I had a lot of works to glaze and have never really done it before so it’s totally one big experiment. I have a couple pieces I really want to turn out for Christmas presents but otherwise am just excited to see what happens in the kiln. We had the choice of staining some pieces under the glaze to bring out the texture – I was possibly a little too enthusiastic and may end up with very Nightmare before Christmas style decorations.
At my other job we have an ‘upcycled art’ charity auction each year, my colleagues and I decided to contribute. :’P
Super silly but still fun. I made the ring and they made the stand from materials we found in the lab.
And I did a few press molded eggs from a porcelain sample a friend gave me. I’m super enjoying carving them. I haven’t carved anything in at least a decade and had forgotten how wonderful it feels when a blade is slicing just perfectly through the material.
We started putting up Christmas lights – they’re always my favorite part. Even without decorations, just sitting and seeing the lights on the tree feels cozy and relaxing.