Here at Segullah, we’re giddy about our new issue of the journal. We love the essays, articles and poems; and Lee Bennion’s artwork makes the print edition a thing of beauty. We can’t quite believe our luck to have Lee Bennion, one of the most highly-respected and well-loved contemporary LDS painters, as our featured artist. It was my pleasure to interview Lee over the last few weeks, and from a writer’s perspective I appreciate seeing how Bennion’s approach to visual arts also applies to writing and other creative pursuits. Her website, Horseshoe Mountain Pottery, showcases her art and gives readers a glimpse into her life.
It’s obvious from looking at your art, with its landscapes and nature images, that you’re a “western” artist. How does being part of a rural community in the west influence your life and work?
Where I live is a huge part of who I am. Probably almost as big as my family is a part of who I am. There are ups and downs living within any community or groups as there is in one’s family life. I love you calling me a “western” artist as I think of myself as a westerner. I grew up in California’s Central Valley in a town called Merced. It was a lot like Orem where my husband grew up, both agricultural towns that by the time we had graduated from high school had become giant strip malls. We both were disillusioned by the change in our hometowns and wanted to find a place that would hopefully in our lifetime stay a quiet small town.
We chose well in Spring City. I still love it here and express gratitude to God every day that I live in this beautiful place that has clean air, water, views, access to the mountains, and a sense of history that I can connect with. Living here, raising my family here, has had a profound influence on my life, our lives, and my work.
You went back to school and finished your BFA after having your girls. How did you balance school and motherhood?
It was tough, but I loved it. I tried going back to school in September of 1977, just a few weeks after my eldest was born. After two weeks, I dropped out. Commuting from Spring City, trying to nurse a baby and being a greenhorn mom and full-time art major just wasn’t working. Something had to give and it was a no-brainer that it was school. Those motherhood instincts and hormones are very powerful and good. I was learning tons being a mother. I also read a lot during those years that my two oldest girls were small. I had only taken my first painting class the last semester before I dropped out, and I was still very intimidated by it and didn’t have the courage or drive to make time for it with my life as a mother.
In 1983, my husband decided that he was going back to school for his MFA. My heart leapt and I instantly decided that I would return to BYU as well to finish my BFA. Continue reading