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Title: Grace, screenprint, by Brenda Joy Lem
Date: 2004
Donor: Lem, Brenda Joy
Subject: Arts, Childhood, China
Province: Ontario
Language: CHI
Author: Brenda Joy Lem

Lem, Brenda Joy

Brenda Joy Lem is a third generation Chinese Canadian visual artist based in Toronto, Ontario. Her mother, Kathleen Lem (née Yip), was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan but was educated in China. When Japan invaded China, Kathleen and her sisters fled their village, moving from one Christian Mission to another in search of refuge. The young women were displaced for thirteen years before they were reunited with family in Canada after the war. Kathleen then married William Lem of Toronto, Ontario and the couple settled in Etobicoke, Ontario. Brenda values the Chinese cultural practices and traditions her mother taught her, some of which she has passed on to her own daughter, Una. On her father’s side, Brenda admires the life of her late grandmother Jean Chin and aunt Margaret Lem. The artist explores her aunt’s memories of growing up Chinese Canadian in Oshawa in several recent works included in the traveling exhibition, Brenda Joy Lem: Homage to the Heart. Drawing from archival photographs, cultural imagery, and the oral histories of her family members, Brenda’s prints and mixed media works explore notions of identity, memory, and place.

Brenda Joy Lem’s daughter, Una, dances in a prairie field near Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, where Brenda’s grandfather Yip Foo settled almost a century earlier. Through her juxtapositions of imagery, the artist considers what it means to be ‘home’ by creating visual connections across time and space – from references to her family’s Toishan farming community, to the adopted prairie landscape of her grandfather’s family, to her daughter’s jubilant gesture towards the sky.