As I begin to write about this accomplished Filipino artist, one thing strikes me. Her life is a portrait of constant learning and leading. Since her youth, she has put herself in various creative roles that have paved the way for personal growth. And her efforts are done based on an interest to challenge oneself at every level. Lim is an artist and leader, and her life illuminates meaning and dynamism.
Lim is from a family more inclined to logic and reason. Both her parents were lawyers. Her father, Arsenio Raquel-Santos, worked for the Department of Justice in the Philippines as a special prosecutor. On the other hand, her mother, Ella Orosa Raquel-Santos, was a lawyer for the Philippine Senate until the early 1970s upon the declaration of Martial Law. For siblings she has Armand, a banker, Francis, a lawyer, and Lynn, who works in the food-catering business.
So how did art come into play for Lim considering a family with deep roots in the legal and business professions?
“Christmas season,” she says. “I would decorate our house and make presents for my family and friends. We also had a reunion at the house of my grandmother, Clara Raquel-Santos.”
Additionally, time spent with Elma Orosa Paraiso, her aunt, during vacation periods was critical for her artistic growth. “My aunt liked arts and crafts and showed me some of the things that she learned,” Lim recalls.
For grade school and high school, Lim attended the College of the Holy Spirit in Manila. At this time, her Saturday mornings were not spent listlessly. “Sister Araceli, one of the nuns from the school, invited some students and gave us free art lessons on Saturday mornings,” she remembers. “I enjoyed those times and remember them as having an important influence in my decision to take up fine arts in college.”
Lim went on the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, studying fine arts. There, she joined the University of the Philippines Student Catholic Action (UPSCA) and got involved in the drama committee. In her junior and senior year, she was a member of the College of Architecture and Fine Arts (CAFA) Student Council, assuming roles as secretary and later, president. She was given various responsibilities and always maintained a positive attitude.
After her college graduation, Lim taught art at the International School in Manila and the Assumption Convent in Herran, Manila. Her deep interest in the field led her to subsequent special roles. “My concerns for the pedagogy of art led me to become secretary of the Philippine Art Educators Association (PAEA) from 1973 to 1974,” she says. “It also brought me to Mobile, Alabama, in 1975 as an art-resource teacher in the Mobile County Public School System.”
Lim moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, with her husband, Jose Lim, to start a family. He was a Canadian bank manager and later, a Manhattan realtor. Together, they have two children. Daughter Marie Claire Moore currently works for the Women’s Foundation in Hong Kong. She and her husband, Alex Moore, have three children: Carlos (six years old), Isabel (four) and Sofia (two). Lim’s son, Justin, is a lawyer who presently works at the Legal Aid Society of New York. As a wife, mother and grandmother, Lim exudes extreme pride in the accomplishments of her children.
While in Canada, she gave art lessons at Place des Arts and finished a certificate in early-childhood education at the Douglas College in New Westminster, British Columbia. Also, she started a multicultural preschool for Our Lady of Lourdes School in Coquitlam, British Columbia, and served as the preschool’s supervisor until 1988. That year, an opportunity arose, which Lim was not to pass up. She accepted a teaching position in early childhood at the United Nations International School in New York. The city’s vibrancy completely influenced her creative philosophy in more ways than one.
“The move to New York was the biggest change of my life,” she rhapsodizes. “There were museums, galleries, art stores and schools. I was constantly around exceptional artists. Living in New York opened new perspectives and insights, which have undeniably been reflected in my work.”
Lim has always been very optimistic. An accident in the late 1980s caused her to be bedridden for a time, but this did not stop her from seeking creative inspiration. “To occupy my time, I began turning the pages of a beautiful book, Impressionism and Post Impressionism, given by a dear friend, Victor Huang. There was a strong reawakening in me and I committed to pursue my art again upon recovery,” she explains.
She enrolled at the School of the Visual Arts (SVA) in New York, taking courses in printmaking and computer art. Excited about her interactions with pioneers of computer art, among them Larry Wright, Gunars Prande, Elaine Breiger and David Sandlin, Lim has since kept on learning, exploring new techniques more so in an age of modern, digital methods.
Being a printmaker, Lim uses techniques such as woodcuts or silk-screens to create images that are transposed to surfaces, generally using a printing press. “I design the prints themselves and sometimes use digital printing processes alongside more traditional craft-based methods,” she describes. “This has increased collaborative work with other computer artists.”
Her work is also deeply steeped in culture and reflects many of the traditions within the particular environment she finds herself in. The experiences of travel, residing in creative and pulsating cities, and of mere everyday observations have inspired colorful, abstract and dynamic pieces of work through the years.
In 1996, Agnes Gund, then-president of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York purchased two of Lenore’s etchings during a private viewing. Exhilaration filled her and helped build self-confidence and a belief in her personal talents. With prodding from then-Philippine Ambassador to the United Nations Philip Mabilangan and his wife, Ada Mabilangan, Lim knew that she had to take the next step. “It made me apply for a Pollock Krasner Foundation Grant, which greatly helped move my career upward.”
Apart from being an artist and mentor, Lim strongly believes in social advocacy. She built the Lenore RS Foundation for the Arts, whose mission is to inspire and help develop the artistic potential of deserving individuals regardless of economic and social background. Through the years, the foundation has sponsored numerous art exhibitions and events in North America and the Philippines. Most recently, it organized a group art exhibition in Vancouver, “Pagtitipon: A Gathering, which featured 10 Filipino Canadian and Filipino American artists. It has also published books: Manuel Rodriguez, Sr. Into the Threshold, a book on the life, art and teachings of the father of Philippine Modern Printmaking, and Imelda Cajipe Endaya: Stitching Paint into Collage.
In February 2016, Filipino audiences had the opportunity to experience Lim’s work once again in a solo exhibition at the Altro Mondo Gallery at Ayala Center entitled, Layered Life: An Art Exhibition of the Prints of Lenore RS Lim. The display was a recollection of sorts, capturing most of Lim’s life’s work, demonstrating her critical roles as artist, community leader, teacher and mother.
Accomplished is an understatement for artist Lenore RS Lim. She continues to push boundaries and challenges herself to be better on both personal and societal levels. “Change requires many people to alter comfortable routines, to rethink paradigms, to try new ways of doing things,” she states.
For someone who has already done so many things and inspired many, she is still keen on advancing further. “Constant evolution is one of the few undeniable truths in life. I have to create art that is fulfilling and a gift to be shared,” she reveals.
And how lucky we all are to be recipients of such a gift.
For more information on Lenore RS Lim, visit www.lenorerslim.com. Video follows.
Serina Aidasani divides her time between New York and Chicago. She works in marketing communications and public relations.
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