Lenore RS Lim. The name rings a resounding bell among lovers of art and fine prints everywhere. After all, Lenore is a master in the modern techniques of lithography, etching, monotype, collagraph, and serigraphy; printmaking skills which she honed at the School of Visual Arts and the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop in New York.
This dedicated printmaker is quite the prolific artist, having exhibited across the globe in Austria, Canada, France, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Jordan, the Philippines, Peru, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.
She is likewise a recipient of the Philippine Presidential Award for Arts, as well as the Jackson Pollock-Lee Krasner Foundation Grant. Adding a feather to an already heavy cap, in 2005, she published a book entitled, “Profound Afterglow: The Prints of Lenore RS Lim.”
All the acclaim Lenore enjoys in the circle of the arts extends to yet another circle—one that, although different in nature, requires just as much artistry: the realm of motherhood.
The subject of daughter / author Marie Claire Lim-Moore’s top-selling book, “Don’t Forget the Soap: And Other Reminders from My Fabulous Filipina Mother”, Lenore is lovingly described as the Un-Tiger mom, who taught her children a healthy life-balance, and never pushed them to the point of overachieving.
Filipino-Canadian, Lenore RS Lim, is indeed the epitome of a (phenomenal) woman.
Early start in art
Lenore traces her early beginnings in the arts to childhood; as a young girl growing up in the Raquel- Santos household.
“When I was a child, my father, Arsenio Raquel-Santos bought me my first art book when he noticed my growing inclination for drawing. In high school, Sister Araceli, my art teacher at the College of the Holy Spirit, gave me free art lessons outside the classroom every Saturday morning. Without their support and encouragement, I might not have developed as a dedicated artist that I am today,” she recalled
These efforts of those close to Lenore paid off in big ways. In 1967, she graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Architecture and Fine Arts, and later went on to teach art at the International School Manila from 1968 to 1974. Simultaneously, she taught at Assumption Convent in Manila from 1968 to 1970.
Wanting to contribute even more to the field of arts education, Lenore became secretary of the Philippine Art Educators Association (PAEA) in 1973; a position she held for one year.
As destiny would have it, her teaching career brought Lenore to Mobile, Alabama USA in 1975, as an Art Resource Teacher in the Mobile county Public School System. After which, she moved to Vancouver, British Columbia to start a family.
In Vancouver, she gave art lessons at Place des Arts from 1984 to 1985.
The art of mothering
Upon starting a family in Canada, Lenore decided to put the same effort into mothering her two young children, as she did into honing her craft.
“To understand and learn more about bringing up my two young children, I finished a Certificate in Early Childhood Education at the Douglas College in New Westminster, B.C. in 1985. I then started a multi-cultural pre-school for Our Lady of Lourdes School in Coquitlam, British Columbia in 1985. I served as the pre-school’s supervisor until 1988 when I accepted to teach Early Childhood at the United Nations International School in New York,” she shared.
And all these efforts paid off richly, as Lenore continues to “mother” with finesse and aplomb.
In her book, which has taken online shopping site Amazon by storm, daughter Marie Claire reveals that she puts her mother “on a pedestal,” and rightfully so.
“When it comes to what defines you as a person and your time in this world, no one has a better outlook than my mother,” Marie Claire writes. “And for this reason I hold her in the highest regard.”
Artful balancing act
In being true to practicing her own preaching about finding balance in life, Lenore successfully managed all her commitments and responsibilities as an accomplished artist, dedicated mother, and fulfilled woman; battling through early immigrant woes.
“I was newly married and we had no job yet. I was already working as an art teacher at the International School Manila, and in Canada, they asked me for Canadian experience,” Lenore says, recalling their early days on Canadian soil.
Also, she admits to having grown “in a house with some helpers,” as such, she “didn’t know how to cook and do housework.”
But, as driven folk often do, Lenore overcame the obstacles, and pressed on towards success.
On top of all that she had going on, she even found time to involve herself with community work to promote Philippine culture.
“In Vancouver, my husband and I were regularly involved in various projects that promoted and contributed in showcasing the Philippine culture in Vancouver to promote international understanding. That took the form of sponsoring and hosting Philippine Nights at different parishes, as well as presenting concerts, and shows featuring different Filipino performing artists from the Philippines,” she said.
Lenore continues to do all she can to help aspiring Filipino artists, as well.
“Since I left the Philippines in 1974 to go to the US, I have been involved in assisting Filipino artists in any way I can. In Vancouver I co-founded a non-profit music foundation that regularly sponsored performances of world class Filipino performers. When I relocated to New York, I focused more on assisting Filipino visual artists both from the Philippines and abroad by encouraging them, giving them ideas based on my personal experiences, as well as helping them put up art shows. I also hold art workshops and demonstrations for some of them,” she shared.
Evolutions of art and life
The winds of change blew upon Lenore’s journey in the late 1980’s, heralding the onward evolution of life and art; for – as many an artist will tell you – the two are tightly intertwined.
Lenore disclosed, “Our family’s move from a Canadian suburb to New York in the late ‘80s was the biggest change in my life. There were museums, galleries, art stores with extensive choices of art materials, art schools and of course, people. I was constantly around exceptional artists from all over the globe. Living in New York opened new perspectives and insights in me from which I derived new ideas and inspirations in my art. Over the years, I have continued to learn and grow as an artist in New York and the influence is undeniably reflected in the development of my work.”
A strong reawakening
An accident suffered in New York, in the same time frame as her move, left Lenore injured and bedridden for some time. Still, she used the challenge to her advantage; finding inspiration as she pored through page after page of an art book she was gifted with by a friend.
“To occupy my time, I began to turn the pages of a beautiful book entitled
“Impressionism and Post Impressionism” given by a dear friend Victor Huang. All of a sudden there was a strong reawakening feeling, a renewed sense of commitment and dedication to pursue my art when I recovered. It was a pledge I made to myself and was to be an important turning point in the way I would relate to art again. I began to take courses in printmaking and computer art at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) from 1990 – 1995. I interacted with artists and teachers who were pioneers of computer art, among them Larry Wright, Gunars Prande, Elaine Breiger and David Sandlin. Since then, I have explored new techniques that combine traditional modes with the current computer programs,” she revealed.
Chalk it up to kismet or fate, or perhaps to human fighting spirit, or better yet, to both; but what could have destroyed Lenore and her dreams only served to make her stronger, emerging with a renewed zeal for her artistic vision.
“In 1991, the Museum of Modern Art had a show of seven printmakers. One of the artists that left a great impression on me was Robert Rauschenberg. He had big, beautiful art pieces. I thought that perhaps I should concentrate on printmaking and one day I could come up with equally wonderful work. On my first trip to Boston in the early 80s my friend Emy Masigan Mercado took me to a gallery and got me interested in some etchings of Salvador Dali. I like his prints so much and that incident led me to decide to take lessons in printmaking. I took many art classes at the school of Visual Arts in New York.”
She details that fellow-Filipinos, Ambassador Philip and Mrs. Mabilagan, were key to her newfound artist perspective, and were instrumental in encouraging her to apply for a grant.
“Ada Mabilangan was the first to refer to me as an ‘established artist’. A subsequent grant for the Pollock Krasner Foundation cemented the self confidence necessary for me to continue my career upward,” she said.
Her many influences
Lenore shares the many influences on her identity as an artist; going back to early years in the Philippines.
“The memories of early childhood while growing up in the Philippines come naturally to me and they inspire every day … the tranquil and idyllic countryside, the lush green fields, the mountains and rivers, the clear blue skies, the sunsets, the people, and everything in the Philippines. “The Land of the Morning”, the “Pearl of the Orient Seas” are pictures that I will always carry with me and will continue to be an influence on what I do in art.”
This global Filipina also notes that her “three worlds” – the Philippines, Canada, and New York – greatly influence her work. She details the three worlds at work as follows: “New York City by itself is always a living and vibrant influence on any artist who lives and works there. I may conceive an idea while taking a quiet walk by the water in Vancouver but eventually continue to work on it in New York. Or, when I go on holiday to the Philippines, I may pick up a few inspirations and materials and bring them back to New York to work further on them. Eventually I would come out with a number of artworks based on what I have experienced in Manila, but flavored, crafted, and blended in a North American setting. I guess I can say I do my art whatever, wherever, and whoever I am at any given time but the influence of New York manifest itself clearly in the finished product.”
Lenore likewise recounts her exposure to the United Nations community as having a significant impact on her art.
“In New York where I taught and was exposed to the United Nations international community, I learn a lot from the diversity of cultures. There are different points of view on divergent subjects and even simple discussions on current issues can be a very interesting and enriching experience,” she said.
A master’s mark
One person who Lenore singles out as having made a great mark on her artistic soul is renowned printmaking master and artist, Robert Blackburn.
“The Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop in New York City offered me the sanctum and environment where I explored, experimented and collaborated with my visions in prints. Robert is a very special person who will leave a mark on many contemporary artists who have had the good fortune to meet and work with him. Even in his later years, he continued to reinforce the belief that artists, black, white, young and old, native and foreign born all matter. Their expressions affirm the most important elements of humanity. He believed that the light cast by artists illuminates us all. I have had the pleasure to know him personally and visited him before he passed away. He has touched my life so deeply that I feel I have the responsibility to continue what he passed on to us through my art. I have to maintain a high level of creative and artistic quality, support and encourage innovation, and pioneer opportunities for third world and minority artists,” Lenore recounted.
Moving forward, giving back
In a nutshell, Lenore sums up her future plans: “I hope to give back even a fraction of the blessings I have received.”
With her commitment towards the furtherance of the arts (specifically, the art of printmaking) across global communities and her resolve to champion the development of Filipino artists, we can expect these blessings to be given back in abundant measure.