“Where We Stand is Holy” Art Opening. Deep bow of appreciation to those who braved Tropical Storm Ophelia and came out for the opening at Zin Yoga and Wine Lounge in Old Town Garner, just south of Raleigh on September 23rd. There was a steady stream of visitors and it was a delight to connect with this wonderful community. Gratitude to Jessica at Artizen Ventures, shown with me here, who coordinated the show for me and owner Kara for hosting my work. The “Reciprocity Mandala” found a new home with this lovely couple, Eric and Gin. A hard one to let go of, but I’ve enjoyed her here in my studio for these past six years.
As many of you know, the painting is inspired by Robin Wall Kimmerer’s “Braiding Sweetgrass.” When I completed the painting in 2017, I sent her a limited-edition giclee print. This was her response: “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.”
Show runs through the end of the year. Discover Zin Yoga here who shares a similar vision as mine! “Our vision is that of a watering hole – a place where ALL can come, regardless of our differences, to receive the nourishment we need.” – Kara O’Briant (founder)
-Rainer Maria Rilke
Oh tear-filled figure who, like a sky held back,
grows heavy above the landscape of her sorrow.
And when she weeps, the gentle raindrops fall,
slanting upon the sand-bed of her heart.
horizontally, into endless depths.
whose hurry we are.
(Excerpt. Transl. by Stephen Mitchell)
This is a long post but I have been contemplating this over the past few days with the start of Holy Week, so read as much or little as you feel called. Blessings to all who celebrate this sacred time.
Most of you know I love Rilke and recently came across this poem which so resonates with my painting of “Mother Mary.” She was inspired by Michelangelo’s monumental-scale sculpture, the “Pieta”—where a very youthful Mary is seen weeping and holding the dying Christ across her lap.
Lacrimosa translates as weeping and refers to “Our Lady of Sorrows,” Mother Mary. It’s holy week for those of the Christian faith centered around the return of Jesus to Jerusalem, culminating in his crucifixion and resurrection. Death. Rebirth. It’s no accident that this season of Easter corresponds to the period around Spring Equinox. It’s well known among progressive theologians that the early writers of the Christian texts grafted their narrative over the pagan traditions of the time. Caves were popular places in the ancient world for spiritual awakenings and transformations (e.g., Muhammed). The womb of our Mother Earth. In Oregon, I attended Sweat Lodge ceremonies during the holy days and were always profound.
Probably like many of you raised as a Protestant, I did not have any relationship with Mary. It’s one of the few things I admire about Catholicism in that they revere Mother Mary. In my opinion, Luther threw the beauty and Sacred Feminine out with the bath water so to speak during the Protestant Reformation of the early 16th century. In my youth, we attended a Congregational Church that was simple and, being New Englanders, very spare with Puritanism running deep into the roots of our consciousness.
I’m no longer a practicing Christian, in part, due to the egregious interpretations of the scriptures that too often condemn the Other and denies the rights of women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community as we are witnessing in our world today. Though I have reclaimed the prophetic Jesus and his message of love, inclusivity, service, and social activism. Up to the age of about 30, I did believe in a benevolent Christian God that was somehow looking over my family and myself. But when my brother died of AIDS in 1989 and Christian leaders and politicians pronounced to the world that my brother deserved to die such a horrific death because of who he was, I was outraged. When my mother died suddenly nine months later, I couldn’t believe in a God who could cause so much suffering in my life. It was a dark period as many of you know who have followed my journey.
Fortunately, over time, my grief journey did ultimately culminate in a spiritual awakening and transformation that continues to inform my life. And I came to deeply appreciate Jesus and Mother Mary during my years in graduate school studying World Religions. I had read “Mists of Avalon” and seen the film version many years previously that ends with Mary becoming the manifestation of the Goddess in a new form which resonated for me. But it was during a Spiritual Direction retreat on the campus of Marylhurst University, Oregon’s oldest Catholic university and the first liberal arts college for women established in the Northwest, in 2006, that I had an epiphany.
I was walking around the property one morning, in reflection and contemplating this sacred time in community with other budding scholars, when I came upon a small sculpture of the “Pieta,” near a parking lot of all places. One might not have even noticed it, but there it was. What I saw was my own mother weeping over her dying son. In the early morning on the day he would die, after sleeping in the hospital waiting room, I walked into my brother’s bright room. My mother was sitting by his bed, weeping, and she said to me: “My son is dying and there is nothing I can do.” Mothers weeping over their sons, dying from a plague condemned by those in power. It was a powerful vision of love and a letting go of the anger I had harbored all those years towards Christianity though I would not return to the Church itself.
I don’t believe in original sin or that Christ is my redeemer but I celebrate that this Holy Prophet walked on this Earth—in the Garden, by the Sea, and in the Wildness—spreading a message of Love and was willing to die for that Divine calling. We can also celebrate the fecundity and beauty of the season and release what no longer serves us so that what needs to be reborn can find its way into our lives. And we can honor mothers who mourn.
May all beings know love. May all know peace.
Art: “Mother Mary.” 18×24”, Acrylic, 2010. ©Amy Livingstone. Original, prints, and posters available. www.sacredartstudio.net
“The forest is far more than a source of timber. It is our collective medicine cabinet. It is our lungs. It is the regulatory system for our climate and our oceans. It is the mantle of our planet. It is the health and well-being of our children and grandchildren. It is our sacred home. It is our salvation.” ― Diana Beresford-Kroeger, To Speak for the Trees: My Life’s Journey from Ancient Celtic Wisdom to a Healing Vision of the Forest.
“Rilke’s Angel” 24×36″, 2022. Acrylic on Canvas
“lord god Bird: Elegy for Ivory-billed Woodpecker.” 12×36″, 2022. Acrylic and Jewels on Canvas.
From my September Newsletter:
I hope this message finds you well and perhaps welcoming in cooler temperatures though I know the West coast is still battling wildfires. Prayers up to all beings including those of the more-than-human world who are impacted.
I was able to complete these two paintings recently. It’s surprising how physical painting truly is, at least for myself as I prefer standing at my easel. So going back and forth between the palette and canvas, then stepping back to view your work, takes stamina. My knee has healed considerably so am able to work with minimal pain. Unfortunately, one of the wires is now protruding and I’m heading into another, albeit easier, surgery for their removal. I’m looking forward to having this completed so I can get back to strength training and a full recovery! If you missed the news about my fractured patella, read about that here.
Both of these paintings give expression to my sorrow over the loss of our beloved trees and as a consequence another one of our winged kin. They say that when people saw the magnificent Ivory-billed Woodpecker, they would exclaim “Lord God Bird” due to its size and beauty. Declared extinct last year though some argue that there may still be some living in the swamps of Louisiana (the state flower is magnolia) though there hasn’t been a sighting since 1944. They went extinct due to unchecked logging and loss of habitat. This painting will be included in the “Where We Stand is Holy” exhibit when I find a location for that. Lost another year here due to my injury but trust in Divine timing.
Buy recycled FSC products whenever possible and advocate for our forests. Without the global forest there is no hope for humanity’s future on earth. Join renowned biochemist and botanist Diana Beresford-Kroeger in her mission to share the ancient Celtic wisdom of the trees and bring about a renewed connection to the Global Forest. Learn more about her mission to protect our forests here.
For love of the Earth!
“The Guardian” 30×40″ ©Amy Livingstone
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Summer greetings my July newsletter:
Sweltering heat has settled over North Carolina (and for most of us in the Northern Hemisphere) while fireflies dance about in the evenings, deer pass through the land stopping for a nibble under the bird feeder, and the setting sun illuminates pine trees with a magenta glow. “For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”
It has been months since my last newsletter but I’ve been so focused on my recovery and regaining strength in my leg—it’s been all consuming. Today is the six month anniversary of my injury when I slipped on black ice and shattered my knee cap/patella. It has been a grueling recovery especially the first three months when my knee couldn’t bend to 90º, the first indicator to determine if I would regain full use of my leg. Screaming, wailing, crying—4x a day for months—pushing to get my knee to bend. It was brutal. I wrote about this journey at my blog which you can read below.
Fortunately, after five months of physical therapy, I am now bending at 132º. I drive now, care for my daily needs, and am walking much better. The first time I walked nearly two miles around a local lake, I had a “Rocky” moment and wept. When my surgeon first saw my X-rays six months ago, he wasn’t confident that I would walk again (perhaps meaning a return to my former abilities). I wept with joy and gratitude.
There’s still pain and they tell me it will likely be many months before it feels “normal” so I continue with daily PT and strength training. I am gradually painting again and looking to what comes next around this holy calling. We are in the midst of so much global change and after nearly 20 years with this particular vision, I am contemplating what might want to change or be updated in my work if anything. Not clear yet but trusting. Some adventure and travel is likewise calling!
I know that art is essential for the healing of our world. In an interview with the late, beloved Barry Lopez, his parting words—to all of us who are artists, writers, healers, and creatives working for the good of our planet—was: “Don’t be distracted. Stay in your prayer. Just keep doing the work.” At times, it can feel hopeless but I’m taking his words to heart. The world needs all of our creative gifts now more than ever—and yes, you do have a gift!
For love of the Earth!
Art: “911: Love is the Answer”—2001, 2015, 2021
Evolution of a painting and our collective journey on this Day of Remembrance. September 11, 2001. It was the twelfth anniversary of my brother Richard’s death from AIDS, I was lighting candles in his memory when I heard of the terrorist attacks. Already in a place of mourning, I was stunned and bereft like most of us. However, it was during the Day of Remembrance three days later that I truly had an epiphany. I experienced a sense of love and oneness that I had never known before.
Much like the love that Paul speaks to in Romans to “love one another with mutual affection.” Christ’s message of love. The interfaith ceremony at the Rose Quarter in Portland, Oregon, included speakers from all faith traditions—Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Buddhist and our indigenous brothers and sisters. As the mystic and poet Rumi wrote: “The broken heart is the doorway to God.” It was extremely powerful and on my way home on the train I had a vision that became this painting.
What I remember in the days following the attacks was that love. The world came to a halt and people stepped away from their busy lives and began to question the meaning of life, to examine what was truly important. It wasn’t how much they had financially or materially, it was about family, friends, and love. Who would I call if I were on that plane? There seemed to be a new realization for the precariousness of our existence and a new reverence for life. People were kind to one another. This was the world I wanted to live in and prayed that this feeling of unity would last…
In my vision, I saw hands holding the earth emerging out of the smoke of the Twin Towers. My hands? White hands. However, over time, it hasn’t felt right with the growing awareness of racial injustice in our world. Years ago, I digitally added the red nails as an expression of the Divine Feminine which is being called forth during this evolutionary time.
And more recently, the 2021 version, I retouched the image with only the earth and heart in color. We are indeed interconnected in the web of live, may we unite in love for one another and for the living Earth. May it be so…
I send a breath of compassion to all those who are grieving for loved ones lost as a result of the September 11 attacks.
Art: “911: Love is the Answer” 24×36″, 2001. ©Amy Livingstone. I spoke at Eastminter Presbyterian in Portland on September 11, 2011 about this journey, you can watch the two-part videos (total of 20 minutes) here: https://www.youtube.com/user/SacredArtStudio/videos
“The future belongs to those who believe in beauty of their dreams.”
From my August newsletter:
Today (August 11) is the 20th Anniversary of my first art installation “A Journey of Healing & Hope: Honoring Loss and Celebrating Life” which was the culmination of a decades worth of paintings and sculptures that began in the wake of my brother’s death from AIDS in 1989 and the sudden death of my mother nine months later. Art saved my life as I have shared many times over the years. It’s why I believe so deeply in the power of art to heal our hearts and our world. It was a powerful evening for all who attended and being witnessed in my grief was profoundly healing. (See photos below.)
To celebrate this anniversary, I’m offering 20% off
everything at my online boutique. Use Coupon “ART20” at
checkout through August 31.
This event was also the launch for my working professionally as a visual artist and healer. Though I had been drawing and painting since my teens, completed undergraduate studies in Fine Art, discovered sculpture in my 30s, and had a wildly successful design business, I was 41 when I answered the call of my soul. It’s been an amazing 20 years and feel so blessed for this creative life journey. As a healer, I began offering “Healing HeARTS” circles for women in grief (based on the Dougy Center peer-support model where I’d been a volunteer working with grieving children for eight years) but those quickly morphed into ecological grief/art circles after a 10-day intensive in the Work That Reconnects with environmentalist Joanna Macy a year later.
It’s been a meaningful two decades and continue to follow the thread of my calling, completing graduate studies in Religion and Ethics in 2007, exhibiting my work, completing commissioned works, creating ecologically-based installations, writing, facilitating workshops, leading ceremonies, and presenting at conferences including the Parliament of the World’s Religions. All in service to the healing of Mother Earth, Pachamama, though as I write this, I am feeling the weight of the new data coming out about the climate crisis. Breathing into that and may we each continue to hold the light in these dark times with the gifts that are ours.
Though deeply loved I was not encouraged as a child to pursue a creative life, so it was against all odds that I have moved beyond the limitations of my ancestral heritage to follow my creative dreams. Don’t ever give up on your dream, friends! We all have a creative gift and the world needs it now more than ever.
Deep gratitude to all my friends, family, and supporters!
We need each other.
In solidarity and love,
“The Guardian” nearing completion.
Happy Earth Day!
From my April newsletter: Though if you have been following my work for sometime, you know that for me (and most of you, no doubt) every day is Earth Day! Bless our beautiful Mother—the source of all life. The vision for “The Guardian” came during my Covid experience in December that I have shared with you. Everyday I anxiously awaited the development of more extreme symptoms and was fearful for myself and my sister who was very ill. On Solstice, Dr Alberto Villoldo of the Four Winds Society was hosting an online celebration. As the Q’ero were preparing a Despacho as an offering to Mother Earth, Pachamama, they shared a message that Earthkeepers would be protected during these troubled times.
I took this to heart as my work and life for the previous 18 years has been dedicated to the healing of the Earth. I had taken Bodhisattva vows with Joanna Macy in 2002, traveled to Peru in 2006 to learn the earth-honoring ways of the Q’ero, and in 2014 during an Animas Valley soul quest, I reaffirmed my commitment to bring the Condor heart to the Eagle people of the North as foretold in the Prophecy of the Eagle and the Condor. There have been many times over the years when I have wanted to walk away from this path, as the ecological crises continue to mount, it can feel overwhelming.
But the message on Solstice was affirming. If make it through, I will continue to be a faithful witness to all that we are losing, to be a maker of beauty for all that remains and for a world yet come. To take action as called. Recently, I was invited to create art during a 350.org Triangle online event to Build Back Fossil Free. See below.
It was very moving and inspiring to hear of all the Great Work, to quote Thomas Berry, being done here in the North Carolina environmental communities. From ending regional pipelines, advocating for missing indigenous women, to regenerative agriculture.
There are so many ways we each can contribute to a more beautiful, ecological just world and know many of you that are already doing awesome work. I bow to you on this Earth Day. If you are called and unsure where you might offer your gifts, follow your grief, your heart, and that will guide the way. We are all Earthkeepers.
“O people! We have been taught the language of birds, and been given everything
˹we need˺. This is indeed a great privilege.” Quran 27:16
As I shared with you last month, The “Conference of the Birds” was originally inspired by a Sufi text of the same name by Farid Ud-Din Attar, who influenced our most famous Sufi poets and mystics Rumi and Hafez. Though the painting doesn’t include birds from this epic poem, I loved the dialogue among the birds within the text about their journey (including their initial resistance) toward union with the One, the Beloved.
Who hasn’t experienced that resistance on the spiritual journey? There is a lot of fear in our world right now and it would be easy to give up on that which feeds life. But when we answer the call of Spirit, there is no going back sleep. And we will need to deepen our commitment in holding the light in the days, weeks, and months ahead.
Attar was Persian, so the arches and textures are inspired by Islamic architecture and designs which render a feeling of the sacred. Per these evolutionary times we are living through, along with the beauty in the Garden, there is darkness around us as the poppy and lily flowers also portend. But here the Cardinal, Goldfinch, Red-winged Black Bird, and Arctic Tern hold the light of hope in the center around the circle of life, the one Divine source. Red, yellow, black and white, we are one people. Let us join together in love and unity for the healing of our world, and the Earth. Though difficult to see at this size, the red calligraphy at the bottom is Farsi, the Persian language, for love.
“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. “ -Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants.
May it be so as we navigate this election day here in the United States and in the days ahead.
With love and gratitude,
From my September newsletter:
“I want to feel both the beauty and the pain of the age we are living in. I want to survive my life without becoming numb. I want to speak and comprehend words of wounding without having these words becoming the landscape where I dwell. I want to possess a light touch that can elevate darkness to the realm of stars.” -Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds
I’ve been at a loss for words given everything happening in our world right now. I’m feeling “the pain of the age we are living in” to quote Williams. And I am also looking to the beauty of what remains around me daily. Some would argue a luxury as a person of privilege. Perhaps it is, but I also believe we each have access to the beauty of the living earth at any given moment. We can take moments to stop. Listen. Breathe. Turn off the phone and look at the trees. Listen to the birds. This and art and books, especially poetry, are keeping me sane. What are the ways you are navigating these times?
The “Conference of the Birds” (above) was originally inspired by a Sufi text of the same name by Farid Ud-Din Attar that I discovered through another author, Belden Lane, though none of the birds in this epic poem are included in this painting. Instead, there is Cardinal, Goldfinch, Red-winged Black Bird, and Arctic Tern.
I’m drawing once again from the wisdom of Chief Arvol Looking Horse during the Parliament of the World’s Religions in 2015 that inspired the “All Nations Tree of Life” below. With so much divisiveness in our country right now, this message could not be more urgent. He said: “Red, yellow, black, and white, we must join together as a spiritual community to heal Mother Earth.” Read previous post here.
What I found interesting while working on the “All Nations” painting was the connection to the Judeo-Christian tradition. The raven (in the tree) appears in many indigenous origin stories and also in the Hebrew bible. Noah releases a raven before the dove. (Gen 8) The same four colors of the medicine wheel appear in the Shamanic Judaism (according Rabbi Gershon Winkler). And in the New Testament: “On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Rev 22).
There are so many ways we are interdependent and pray that we come together as a nation to heal the wounds of racial and economic inequality, divisiveness, and the climate crisis. Sending prayers to all being impacted by the fires on the West coast of the US and hurricanes along the Gulf Coast, and to those around the World facing the challenges of our times.
With gratitude and love, Amy
Beauty blessings during this transition to Autumn in the Northern hemisphere. A belated Shana Tova to my Jewish friends. I’ve been contemplating this painting “Wheel of the Four Winds” again since Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Especially, the direction of the West, where the Archangel Raphael, symbolized by the bull, is our guide and teacher in navigating the darkness. Feels appropriate given the collective traumas of this year and the coming darkness of the autumnal season. In our earth-honoring traditions, this is a time for going within—though most of us have been living this all year! But perhaps we can do this more intentionally, asking ourselves what is asking to be released, like the leaves from the trees, to create the compost for the coming year? Breathing into this. Join me?
This painting is inspired by Rabbi Gershon Winkler’s book “Magic in the Ordinary: Recovering the Shamanic in Judaism.” In the Jewish shamanic tradition, “the West is death…the dream place where all the doing ceases and has a chance to process, to become seed for tomorrow’s newness.” And the bull “symbolizes majesty and determination, unrelentingly pushing forward into tomorrow, into the next moment into destiny, against all odds and with a sense of surety and knowing…this is the place of wisdom and understanding.”
The Hebrew transliteration is “tifaret,” or beauty, which sits at the heart of the Kabbalah’s Tree of Life at the center of the medicine wheel. In the four corners Hebrew letters—aleph, mem, and shin—representing the elements of air, fire, water, and earth which Kabbalists ceremonially chant.
Art: “Wheel of the Four Winds.” 2014, 30×48” ©Amy Livingstone. You can read more about this painting here: https://www.sacredartstudio.net/new-year-new-painting/