The Courage to Create

“Compline: Prayer for the Arctic” (in process)
“It’s absurd to think of artists simply as ‘painting nature.’ . . . For them, nature is a medium, a language by which they reveal their world. What genuine painters do is to reveal the underlying psychological and spiritual conditions of their relationship to their world. . . They have the power to reveal the underlying meaning of any period precisely because the essence of art is the powerful and live encounter between the artist and his or her world.”   -Rollo May

I recently picked up and began re-reading Rollo May’s The Courage to Create that I first encountered back in graduate school. It’s an inspiring manifesto for the artist around the importance of art and creativity in a societal context as well as unconscious obstacles that are necessary to overcome in order to give birth to our artistic vision. For example, the relationship between creativity and death, our immortality, and what he refers to as “an active battle with the gods.”   

Not unlike Stephen Pressfield’s The War of Art, it means moving past resistance and trusting in the process. That the “gods” are actually on our side. Showing up even when it’s challenging. Not always easy but it is possible at any stage of our life.   

It takes courage, which comes from the French root coeur or heart, to show up for creative work.  A very talented friend of mine recently picked up a paintbrush again after 30 years. She entered her gorgeous painting into a juried exhibition and it was accepted. It’s never too late to pick up a brush, or the pen.   

I can recognize when I’m hitting resistance in my process usually when nearing completion. While working on the above (from the Where We Stand is Holy installation), I needed to surrender for a time and then wrestle with the angels or demons that kept me from moving forward. It’s a breakthrough moment and am now in the finishing stages of this piece that shines a light on the creatures of the Arctic regions threatened by climate change.   Where are you resisting your creative expression?     

If you read or subscribe to the Science of Mind magazine look for my article, “Sacred Art. Sacred Activism.,” in the August issue.   

Happy Interdependence Day!
Amy 

The Journey of Art & Soul Continues

At work in the new studio in Raleigh, NC.

“Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?”
-Mary Oliver 

It has been a slow unfolding here since my last newsletter. Settling into my new home and studio here in Panther Branch Township just south of downtown Raleigh. It’s now six months since I pulled out of Portland and headed back East to begin a new chapter of life. Something I swore I would never do after moving alone to Portland in 1993. It was hard then and I was in my early 30s. It took time to make a life but a beautiful life it was and remain so grateful for all the many gifts over the years.  

Never say never. Here I am approaching 60 and starting over again! Natural concerns about finding community, making meaningful connections, and making a living linger but life–and loss–have taught me too many times that everyday is a gift. Some days I am lonely but on this day of life, I am following my soul. Where it will lead remains a mystery. This is the journey of a pilgrim. Will you join me? “Are you breathing just a little and calling it a life” to quote Oliver. Where are you being called to expand and take a step toward your soul calling? Artistically or otherwise?      

Right now, I am committed to finishing the “Where We Stand is Holy” installation by the end of August to begin exhibiting in the Fall. I began the series of paintings around endangered species and landscapes several years ago but got put aside while care taking my father prior to his death and with the cross-country move. Prints of the first two panels (Lauds: Prayer for the Birds and “Sext: Prayer for the Desert”) are available at my shop.   

The new studio seen above looks out over a quiet piece of land with wild trees, a little pond, and an abundance of Cardinals and Eastern Bluebirds. I traveled 3000 miles to find peace. Om shanti. Though I do look forward to returning to Portland to visit friends!    

 It was fun to connect with the Abundance NC community last month and bring artwork and the nature mandala ceremony to their event. Another beautiful offering for the healing of our world.       

For love of the EARTH,
Amy

 

The Messenger: Ode to the Passenger Pigeon

“The Messenger: Ode to the Passenger Pigeon”

“The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time. They are kneeling with hands clasped that we might act with restraint, that we might leave room for the life that is destined to come. To protect what is wild is to protect what is gentle. Perhaps the wilderness we fear is the pause between our own heartbeats, the silent space that says we live only by grace. Wilderness lives by this same grace. Wild mercy is in our hands.” -Terry Tempest Williams, Refuge

This painting came through me very quickly on one hand just prior to my move but I have long been drawn to the tragic story of the Passenger Pigeon. With a population between 3-5 billion, it was the most abundant bird in North America. Flocks would darken the sky for days as they flew overhead. Yet human exploitation drove this species to extinction over the course of a few decades. “Martha” the last Passenger Pigeon died in 1914. Originating in Scotland, the cairn or stacked stones,  implies a funereal monument and in the lower left corner, the extinction symbol. Created by a London artist Xylo: “The circle signifies the planet, while the hourglass inside serves as a warning that time is rapidly running out for many species” during what is now being defined in our time as the Sixth Mass Extinction of Species.  

The demise of the Passenger Pigeon is also an urgent message around our own vulnerability in the face of ecological degradation including climate change. “How might we act with restraint” to quote Williams? And how do we navigate these changing times? And with grace?  

While speaking at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in November, indigenous elder Jim Dumont, of the Anishinabeck Nation, encouraged us to “Speak for the plants. Speak for the creation. Speak to the conscience of those who are destroying them.” This was affirming of my work and deeply moving. I wept. Art plays an important role not only in communicating a message/vision but, as most of you know, the process itself offers healing and a spiritual practice for resilience during troubled times. Even something as simple as coloring, drumming, planting flowers, or the latest ZenTangle can have enormous benefits for your well being and stress level.     

I am settling into the new home and studio here in the Panther Branch Township (in Raleigh NC) and will share more next month. You can always check out Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for updates between newsletters.   As always, I welcome your thoughts.   

For love of the EARTH!

        

Toward an Interspiritual World

Opening of “Toward an Interspiritual World,” Community Center at Mile Hi.

Artwork hanging in the Mile Hi Sanctuary building. 

From my July newsletter:

For those in the Northern Hemisphere, I hope your summer season is bringing you opportunities for rest, play, and wild creativity. We’re also seeing unprecedented heatwaves and too many fires around the world even in the Arctic and send prayers to all those impacted. It’s hard to deny the impact of climate change and my heart breaks for our beloved planet and all beings–human and the more-than-human world.

We are in the midst of radical change on a global scale and for those of us who are empathic, we are feeling this deeply. I vacillate daily between a desire to hide on one hand, and on the other, a call to action on a larger scale. Consider the social movements of the 20th century. But if we truly desire to work “Toward an Interspiritual World,” a world that is just, peaceful, and ecologically sustainable, there will be some birthing pains along the way. Remember to breathe deeply and tap into the creativity you were born with no matter what that looks like for you. This will be essential for your overall well being and contribute to the betterment of our world.

So, I was very inspired during my time with the Mile Hi community last month where my show will be on display through September 30. This is such a beautiful, heart-centered community and a model for these times around radical inclusivity, evolutionary consciousness, and faith in action. It was also very affirming of my work and returned home committed to this journey that began 15 years ago. This may require me to make some personal changes and listening for guidance on that. More to come. In the meantime, I am grateful to all those who I had the opportunity to speak with and to those who purchased originals and other sacred art goodies.

I believe most of us realize on some level that we are at a crossroads. “We can continue on the path we have been on, in this nation that privileges profit over people and land; or we can unite as citizens with a common cause–the health and wealth of the Earth that sustains us.” -Terry Tempest Williams, from The Hour of Land.

May it be so.

Unity Consciousness


“Humanity stands at a crossroads between horror and hope. In choosing hope, we must seed a new consciousness, a radically fresh approach to life drawing its inspiration from perennial spiritual and moral insights, intuition and experience. We call this new awareness Interspiritual. . . the recovering of the shared mystic heart beating in the center of the world’s deepest spiritual traditions.” -Wayne Teasdale, “The Mystic Heart”

Created specifically for the Mile Hi exhibit, the “Unity Consciousness” mandala is inspired by the Science of Mind teachings of Ernest Holmes and his notion of the “Golden Thread of Truth” that recognizes that thread of connection between all our spiritual traditions. No matter what faith we choose or inherit, including science, we are all interconnected in the web of life. We are one with God, with the Other, and with all Creation symbolized by the cycles of the season. Colorado state animals shown here were my spirit guides during painting sessions. Learn more about Science of Mind here: https://tinyurl.com/y75x7udl

If you are in the Denver area, the show is up through the summer and closes on September 30. I will be on site June 24th and Septhember 30th from 8:30-2pm for the artist meet and greet.

Hope in the Dark


These two recently completed paintings shown above ultimately became companion pieces to one another. Really self-portraits that speak to my own hope and prayer during these dark times. “Hope in the Dark” was originally inspired by 14th c mystic and theologian Julian of Norwich who lived during the time of the Black Death in Europe. You can see an early version of this painting from eight years ago here. While recovering energetically from caring for my father last year, I pulled this canvas out from a  stack leaning against the wall and started re-working it and recalling her words throughout my process: “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well” (Latin: Omnibus Bene Tibi Erit).

The title of the piece is also a nod to one of my favorite writers and historians Rebecca Solnit who wrote a book of the same title. She writes: “To hope is to gamble. It’s to bet on the future, on your desires, on the possibility that an open heart and uncertainty are better than gloom and safety. To hope is dangerous, and yet it is the opposite of fear, for to live is to risk.” Highly recommend reading this book especially for activists who are feeling ineffective at times.

“The Artist’s Prayer” also a prayer for peace among individuals and nations. The quote along the top reads:”Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” -Rumi.

With so much at stake, our creativity in service to our world, to compassion, to love, to beauty, to oneness could not be more important. To hold out a light of hope and love….

Bow of gratitude to those who came to my opening at Karuna Contemplative earlier this month! Nice to reconnect with some old friends that I hadn’t seen in many years. The show will be up until the 26th. Now in preparation for my show at Mile Hi Church in Denver, Colorado. Readying myself for a long drive but it will be great to have my art further out in the world, touching hearts and minds with these sacred offerings. I’ll send out more information as I know some of you have friends in the area who may want to attend.

Upcoming Event:

I will be bringing the nature mandala ceremony to the screening of artist/activist Chris Jordan’s Albatross on June 8th. It addresses the crisis of plastics in the ocean through the lens of the magnificent Albatross on Midway Island in the Pacific. Sure to break open the heart. I’ll send more information out as we approach.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.
Amy

Art at Karuna Contemplative Living


Nice group of people showed up for my art opening last Friday at Karuna Contemplative Living. Thank you friends. Here with the owner, Anandi, and art enthusiast Mark. The show will be up through the end of May.

Artist Statement:
I chose these particular paintings for this exhibit because they embody the overarching message that weaves throughout my work. That we as a species must reclaim ancestral ways of being in sacred, reciprocal relationship with the earth if we are to ensure a livable planet for future generations and the survival of all species.

This was the inspiration for Resurrection: Holy mother earth with the seed of life nestled in the heart of the web of life. Our current paradigm is cracking open. Transformation, symbolized by the endangered monarch butterflies, is assured. To maintain life on earth, we need the resurrection of indigenous and ancient ways of knowing. Can we remember that we breathe with trees? That everything comes from the Earth?

Indigenous leaders and teachers like Chief Arvol Lookhorse and Robin Wall Kimmerer are telling us that we are at a crossroads. All Nations Tree of Life was inspired during a Lummi Nation ceremony and later reiterated by Chief Arvol Lookinghorse during the indigenous plenary at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in 2015. I wept through the entire three-hour session. Their message—red, yellow, black, white—we are all one people. “We must join together as a spiritual community in order to heal Mother Earth.” And again, reading Kimmerer’s inspirational book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. Her sacred text was the inspiration for the Reciprocity mandala. She writes: “The path is lined with all the world’s people, in all colors of the medicine wheel—red, white, black, yellow—who understand the choice ahead, who share a vision of respect and reciprocity, of fellowship with the more-than-human world. Men with fire, women with water, to reestablish balance, to renew the world.”

The question is: Are we listening?

My work is a contribution and a prayer toward this transformative vision.

{New} Sacred Art Offering

From my February Newsletter:


Divinity and the universe seem deeply biased in favor
of the future. Both celebrate emergence.
Call it: Resurrection. Call it: New Life or New Creation.
Call it: Evolution or Creativity. I believe in the future
and the possibilities of hope.
-Theologian Matthew Fox, founder of Creation Spirituality.

I discovered this quote after I completed “Resurrection” seen here above and it felt so appropriate to the vision behind this painting: Holy mother earth with the seed of life nestled in the heart of the web of life. Our current paradigm is cracking open. Transformation, symbolized by the monarch butterflies, is assured. To maintain life on earth, we need the return or “resurrection” of ancient ways of knowing associated with indigenous and ancestral wisdom, for living in harmony with the earth.

Fox’s message fills me with hope and possibility at a time of deep division and uncertainty in our country, in our world. Art has that power, too. Hope.

I’ve been researching options for people to collect my work in more affordable ways. Art blankets have been something I’ve considered for awhile. Popular in the visionary arts community, they’re great to take to any festival, camping, or to snuggle up with at home. Spread the beauty.

These soft and cozy blankets are woven with 100% cotton. 60% of which is recycled cotton. Made in the USA. $85 plus shipping. (If you’re in the Portland area, I could arrange for delivery.) I’m taking pre-orders here.

 

I’m also thrilled to share with you that Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass loved the Reciprocity Mandala. She wrote:

“I have to tell you that I just cried when I saw your painting. I feel my dear ones from Braiding Sweetgrass, so very much alive here, so loved. It is so whole. The love and the grief…the glimpse of salamanders, the radiance of goldenrod and asters….This is really magnificent and I am so touched by your creation. This is our work, together-to reciprocate the beauty of the world with beauty of our own. I am so grateful.”

I’m so deeply touched. And in spite of all the uncertainty, I am also grateful. For life, for spirit. For the beauty of our world. Where are you creating beauty today?

Blessings and love,
Amy

Theology of the Arts + New Paintings

When I was considering graduate school in 2003, I contemplated whether to pursue a Masters in Fine Art, a Masters in Art Therapy, or the program that I eventually ended up choosing which was an Interdisciplinary Masters in Spiritual Traditions & Ethics. I had completed undergraduate work in fine arts in my youth and had been painting and sculpting “on the side” over the years while working as a graphic designer. This was before I answered my soul calling to work professionally as an artist in 2001. An MFA might have given me the opportunity to teach in an academic setting but not necessarily. I also wasn’t interested in the mainstream gallery scene. I had recently returned from a 10-training with environmentalist Joanna Macy and was studying the teachings of Matthew Fox’s Creation Spirituality. My vision was to use my art in service to the healing of the earth. I wasn’t seeing much of that in museums or galleries though that has changed over the years with greater awareness of climate change and the ecological crisis overall.

After the deaths of my brother and mother, and relocating to Portland in 1993, I had begun prerequisites for a Masters in Art Therapy (this is how I came to sculpture originally!). Through my own grieving process, I wanted more meaningful work and to support others in their grief. I’d had a successful design career but while doing the prerequisites, I realized that I was still too raw to hold space for others as a therapist and instead found my way to the Dougy Center, a center for grieving children and families. I was a volunteer grief facilitator there for eight years and can say that those  were some of the most meaningful and healing years for myself and for all those who passed through their doors. My workshops evolved out of this same desire to support others in their healing journeys.

Fast forward to 2003. At the time, I was in a writing group working on “my story” around the deaths, the spiritual awakening that occurred over those dark years, and the mystical experience I had during the Macy Training. This became my writing sample for the graduate program and was published in Alternatives Magazine. People around me thought I was crazy. They’d ask incredulously: “What are you going to do with that degree?” But I listened to my inner voice and knew this was where I was called to be. I had just founded Sacred Art Studio and wanted to study religion. I wanted to understand how humanity had become so disconnected from the natural world that we were willing to destroy the land base on which all life was dependent. I was also an avid student of art history since undergrad days and already knew of the connections between faith and art. I didn’t know exactly where my work or my life was going but I needed to trust in my vision. And so I began graduate school in the fall of 2004 and graduated with honors in 2007.

Over these past 11 years, my art and spiritual path have been informed by these studies and my intention remains the same: to communicate the sacredness of the creation, to inspire a deep reverence for the earth, and with a hope to spark actions that protect the holiness of this place we all call home. It hasn’t always been a lucrative path financially but it is a meaningful life and I live simply. I have also been having fun designing books, often for first time authors who are self-publishing. This feeds my wild love of books and desire to serve others in their creative gifts.

Recently, I was thrilled to discover a wonderful book that validated this calling. “Art Lessons” by Deborah Haynes, an artist and academic based in Colorado who likewise has studied religion and the arts. She speaks to what I have already expressed: “A theology of the arts is based on the conviction that the artist has a personal calling, a vocation, to interpret the dilemmas we face, thereby giving voice to hopes and fears, experiences and dreams. In doing this, a theology of the arts is also oriented to this world, to the present as it moves inexorably toward the future. And, it is active: It urges engagement and commitment to the world in order to bring about political, social, and cultural transformation.”

A couple of new works in progress. “Sacred Text” (working title) and a painting that originally started many years ago as 14th c mystic and visionary icon Julian of Norwich who spoke radically of Christ as Mother, as the nurturing and loving presence of God.” She wrote, “All shall be well, all shall be well…For there is a force of love moving through the universe that holds us fast and will never let us go.” May it be so.

Reciprocity Mandala


I hope the start of this New Year brings you good health and joy. There seems to be a renewed energy of hope at this moment after what seemed like a year of holding our collective breaths. We’re still here though too many beloveds have departed this realm, but I remain grateful for all who are holding the light these days. As indigenous teacher and scientist Robin Wall Kimmerer writes:

“The path is lined with all the world’s people, in all colors of the medicine wheel-red, white, black, yellow-who understand the choice ahead, who share a vision of respect and reciprocity, of fellowship with the more-than-human world. Men with fire, women with water, to reestablish balance, to renew the world. “

May it be so. This quote comes towards the end of Kimmerer’s brilliant hymnal to the Earth, “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants.” There is abundant wisdom and rich imagery in her book and with only so much space to work with, I simply allowed the species of each plant and animal to guide me. Salmon, heron, ambystoma maculata (salamander), three sisters, aster and goldenrod, medicine plants, etc…Through this co-creative journey, I feel an even deeper kinship with all these beings.

I hear the call from our indigenous brothers and sisters about the need for all of us to unite as a spiritual community to heal the earth. This was also the inspiration, for those new to my work, for the “All Nations Tree of Life” shown below. I/we are seeing this happen within many communities even though it may not be visible in mainstream media.

In closing, from Braiding Sweetgrass: “The moral covenant of reciprocity calls us to honor our responsibility for all we have been given, for all that we have taken. It’s our turn now, long overdue. Let us hold a giveaway for Mother Earth, spread our blanks out for her and pile them high with gifts of our own making. . . . Gifts of mind, hands, heart, voice, and vision all offered up on behalf of the earth. Whatever our gift, we are called to give it and to dance for the renewal of the world. . . . In return for the privilege of breath.”

What is your gift? Would love to hear from you!

For love of the Earth!
Amy