Turns out, one of the toughest things about winning a national award for your artistic excellence is keeping the darn thing under wraps.
“I knew four months ago, and I had to keep a secret, which is a very difficult thing to do,” jokes Lou Lynn. “You run into someone at the grocery store, and they ask how you are doing. And all you can say is ‘you know, the same old, same old.’ Meanwhile the most important thing of my career just happened and I can’t tell anybody.”
So Lynn, a Winlaw artist, was glad when the news was finally released in February that she had won the prestigious Saidye Bronfman national award for her life’s work of exploring shape, form and function through sculpture.
She was one of eight artists honoured with a Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts this year for “exceptional careers and their remarkable contribution to the visual and media arts and fine crafts.” But Lynn says she wasn’t certain she’d be chosen.
“I had been nominated four times before,” she told the Valley Voice. “There was part of me that said ‘you know, I don’t know if this is going to happen.’ Maybe that’s self-defence mode – you don’t want to get too excited, you’ve been there before, and there are lots of deserving artists.
“So I was trying not to get too worked up over it.”
As part of the peer-chosen Bronfman award, Lynn will receive a $25,000 prize and a special-edition bronze medallion in recognition of her life’s work.
“Her work not only draws us in to admire its skillful and aesthetically pleasing facture – it makes us think about our histories as makers and about the hand, mind and body working in concert to create beautiful and functional objects that enrich our world,” said nominators Raine Mckay, the executive director of the Craft Council of British Columbia, and writer/artist Amy Gogarty.
Lynn’s work is characterized by extraordinary craftsmanship, as defined by her mastery of relevant technologies and materials, attention to all aspects of production and presentation, a lifelong interest in the tools and implements associated with the history of handcraft and making, and her ability to invest form with presence.
Lynn calls the award a highlight of her career, and that’s saying a lot. In 2006, she was the recipient of the Gerson Award for Excellence, Innovation & Leadership from the Craft Council of British Columbia and, in 2010, she was inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.
She has had some remarkable works come out of her Winlaw-area studio barn, where she has worked for many years. Lynn’s sculptures have been shown in numerous national and international exhibitions and are part of public collections that include the Canadian Museum of History, the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery, the Glasmuseum in Denmark, the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts and the Corning Museum of Glass in New York State.
Lynn taught professional practices for over 20 years and was the co-coordinator of two ‘Beyond Borders: Craft Marketing’ conferences held in Nelson and Fredericton in the early 2000s. She also teaches a session every year at the Kootenay School of Arts, where she says her message to student artists is to stick to your work.
“I really try to get the message across, that this is a career. It takes a long time and a commitment to keeping going. At times when it looks like nothing’s happening, you still have to keep on doing it,” she says. “You just keep going out to the studio, and keep doing it.”
Lynn says she’s getting used to the higher public profile created by her win. And like any artist, she’s happy to see the award is bringing her work a higher prominence.
“I have a bigger public profile than I did before. Of course, I have been working years to develop that profile. This is an enormous boost,” she says. Last week she got a call from a gallery in Montreal, looking for some of her work for a client.
“That was solely because of the Governor General’s award, so that’s a lovely outcome,” she said. “But I am not trying to have any particular idea on where this is going to go, what is going to be the result. But it’
Right now Lynn is working on a new set of creations, but she’s not quite ready to talk about them yet. She’s just going to her studio daily, studying, exploring and tinkering.
Award or not, her commitment to the work is unchanged.
John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice