By Malie Hudson     5/20/2021

O.C. Artist Ting-Ting Lee began taking photos for her “Seeking God” collection shortly after her baptism on Easter Sunday in 2015. She never imagined that her journey would lead to her work being displayed inside Christ Cathedral.   

“This is a lot of work but the work itself is so important. The process is so important. The result is something I know I needed to show to people. I didn’t know where, but I just felt that this belongs to the Church,” said Lee, who grew up in Taiwan in a non-religious household. In 1977, she came to California as a foreign student with the California Institute of the Arts, where she earned her MFA degree in Graphic Design. She met Tim Barker in college, and they married in 1978. She returned to Taiwan to teach and later moved back to California with her husband and their son, Christopher. For 38 years, the couple has managed their Costa Mesa-based business, Barker and Lee Graphic Design Studio.  

Lee’s other works, “California Chinatown 1978,” “CHA” and “California Chinatown 1978 & 2008,” were featured in the California Museum of Science and Industry, California Institute of the Arts, America Culture Center (Taipei), Newport Beach Library and Fremont Main Library.  

Her son’s school project on California missions inspired her appreciation for Catholic churches. She visited the missions in 2009 and completed her “California Missions” series that year (later displayed at Newport Beach Library). Her journey led her to the RCIA program at Sts. Simon and Jude in Huntington Beach in 2013 and eventually her baptism in 2015. It was while reading an issue of OC Catholic that year that sparked an idea to begin another collection, “Seeking God.”  

“There was a list of 62 churches in O.C. with names and information. I thought this was interesting and it came to me later on that I needed to do a project,” she said. With health issues, caring for family in Taiwan and her mother’s death that year, she said, “I still felt I needed to go to all 62 churches.” She started in June 2015 and completed it in May 2016.  

“At the time, I didn’t know anyone in the diocese, so I emailed Bishop Vann,” she said. “I wrote that I had this collection and I believe it’s important. I sent the email and didn’t think any more of it. I just felt I did my part and God asked me to do it.”  

She later received a reply with arrangements for her to meet with Fr. Christopher Smith, rector at Christ Cathedral.  

“I showed Fr. Christopher the photos and he said, ‘Did you know that we’re going to have the 40th anniversary celebration of the diocese in September (of 2016)?’ I said, ‘No I didn’t know.’ He said, ‘Well your photos are perfect for the exhibition.’ It was so incredible.” Lee donated 25 framed photos to Christ Cathedral then. They are displayed on the sanctuary level in the clergy vesting room and non-clergy vesting room (both located in the narthex) and along the corridor behind the predella (not visible from the sanctuary), Bishop’s vesting room and the bride’s room in the undercroft. 

She also donated 28 photos of the “California Missions” series. It’s planned for display on the walls of the stairwells going to the south, east and west balconies of the cathedral.