“Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?”
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!
For love of the EARTH,
It has been a slow emergence from the cocoon this winter season as I ground into my new home state of North Carolina. Now we’ve passed the New Year, Imbolc on February 2, the mid-point between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox in the Celtic tradition, and the start of the Chinese New Year-the year of the Pig. If you’re this sign as well, visit this link to learn more. Looks to be an auspicious year!
There are stirrings of creative energy around the coming season of rebirth as trees begin to bud and bloom here. Perhaps you’re feeling this impulse, too? New paintings are percolating, several are in process, and I recently completed the painting above. When I first painted in the golden crown, I wasn’t clear why until I deepened into the piece. An ancient Sumerian goddess, Inanna’s underworld journey is an archetypal symbol of transformation and rebirth. I first discovered her 18 years ago during another time of deep transformation and if you would like to learn more about her, this is a great text.
Here, she emerges from the yoni, or womb, of the Vesica Piscis, the two intersecting triangles that are considered the “seat of creation” in sacred geometry. One circle representing the transcendent/Sacred and the other, the material/profane. Two circles lead to seven intersecting triangles that become the “Seed of Creation.” This being the foundation for the six-pointed Star of David in Judaism, the Seal of Solomon in Islam, the Shri Yantra in Hinduism, and the hexagram that appears throughout Nature, like the honeycomb seen here in the painting.
I love learning more about sacred geometry as it offers another way to communicate the Sacred that is woven throughout the fabric of our everyday lives. We are interconnected beings. Bridging religion and science, we can discover more commonalities than differences especially among our faith traditions. From Albert Einstein: “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”
New studio space coming!
I’ve also been in the process of looking for a new home and studio space and am scheduled to close on a new property March 19, right in line with Spring Equinox. This is the photo below of the converted garage that will be the new home of Sacred Art Studio, based in Raleigh.
I continue to feel profound gratitude for your support of this holy ministry and Mother Earth for her beauty and abundance. I’m also feeling hopeful these days with the changes in our Congress and the growing climate awareness/actions especially from our young people. They need our support for their future! As always, I welcome your thoughts.
With love and gratitude,
From my December Newsletter:
There is only one life
you can call your own
and a thousand others
you can call by any name you want.
Hold to the truth you make
every day with your own body,
don’t turn your face away.
Hold to your own truth
at the center of the image
you were born with.
Those who do not understand
their destiny will never understand
the friends they have made
nor the work they have chosen
nor the one life that waits
beyond all the others.
-David Whyte. Excerpt from “All the True Vows”
After returning from the Parliament of the World’s Religions last month and a whirlwind time closing my home/studio and visiting friends, I arrived in Durham, North Carolina ten days ago. It was difficult to leave Oregon after 25 amazing years there but Portland is no longer the livable city that I fell in love with and was guided to make a radical change in order to continue following my soul’s journey where ever it may lead. I continue to ask, “How best can I serve our ailing albeit beautiful world with what is mine to offer?” This has been a leap into the mystery and the territory of faith.
I’m not sure Durham will be my new home ground but have a short-term lease on house that is my transition space to ground back into my work, make connections, and explore the region. As we approach the Winter Solstice, this is an ideal time to carve out some precious time in your life and go inward, reflect on the passing year, and vision for the new. What is the “one life that waits beyond all the others” to borrow from Whyte? If you had one year to live, what changes if any would you make in your life?
Our time in this bodily realm is so ephemeral and sitting with this again as another dear friend and colleague enters his dying time. Allowing the grief and present to the preciousness of existence. There was also an urgency that came through at the Parliament from every corner of the globe around climate change. That we must join together as people of faith and conscience–in the spirit of MLK, Rosa Parks, and Gandhi–to ensure a livable planet for all beings and future generations. I returned inspired by so many voices contributing to a more inclusive, loving, and sustainable world.
I also spent a lot of time in the Lodge of Nations and was deeply inspired by the generosity of our First Nations peoples to share their ancient knowledge and affirm the importance for each of us to rediscover our own indigenous roots. To quote Anishinabek elder Elder Jim Dumont: “We have to believe in the beauty of this world.” Still processing this but look forward to sharing more soon around what art/actions may emerge….
Bow of gratitude to all the friends who drummed and prayed for us all the way across this beautiful country. And angels that guided us as we navigated snowy mountain passes, the Mojave desert, and heavy construction through major cities. We felt your support all the way!
A blessed and joyful holiday season to all.
In gratitude and love,
No surprise then that butterfly woman (see my first mandala at this link) is reappearing at this threshold of my life as I embark on the next stage of this journey and navigate my second Saturn return. This 29-year cycle is often a time of disruption and transformation, and a necessary shedding occurs that opens space for the new. Has this been true for you? My first Saturn return was marked by the deaths of my brother and mother that initiated me into a new awareness of the preciousness of life, prompting my relocation to Portland 25 years ago.
I have been blessed to call this place home all these years and it has been through a long period of discernment that I have decided to move back to the East coast. It’s a leap into the unknown which is at the heart of any pilgrimage. And as pilgrims on the path, we must follow the call of the soul. This doesn’t mean it has been easy or without grief and many sleepless nights but the signs are clear. It’s time to spread my wings.
The signs were emerging four years ago, during an Animas Valley quest into the wild indigenous soul but I was caring for my elderly father and was unable to make a move at that time. This came via email recently from one of my teachers and guides on the quest, Bill Plotkin:
If you’re in Colorado, I’ll be back to Mile Hi for the closing of my show on September 30th. Hope to see you there!
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.
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.
Spring has arrived in Portland, Oregon. The garden is in bud and the birdsong abundant. Feeling grateful for this season of renewal and resurrection of life after the dark of winter. As we emerge from the chrysalis of our cocoons, beauty welcomes us home.
In retrospect, the winter months have been harder energetically on me than usual. I normally welcome the slowness and interiority of winter but the tiredness that lingered after the care giving and death of my father and with the added grief for my dear friend and spiritual teacher at the end of the year brought on an underlying melancholia. And like so many, the current political scene and mass shootings exacerbated this heaviness though am in awe of our youth and their demand for gun control.
I have been working on several paintings (The Artist’s Prayer shown above) at what feels like a glacial-pace but honoring the healing process of artmaking as I navigate this threshold time. Knowing there are gifts inherent within these times of darkness even when it doesn’t always seem apparent. Rebirth and transformation in some form are assured if we give ourselves time. Patience with our process which isn’t always supported in our fast-paced, deadline driven world. But Nature is our teacher. What seems fallow will bud again….
And so with Spring, energy is returning and am excited to share that the “Resurrection” blankets arrived and most are sold. See below. I will also be having a show of my paintings at Mile-Hi Church in Colorado beginning June 24 and running through September. If you are in the Denver area, they are also carrying my cards, devotional posters, and All Nations Tree of Life limited-edition giclee prints in their gift store–“Works of Heart.” (available on April 6)
My friends, I wish you Passover, Easter, and Spring/Pagan blessings and welcome your thoughts. What is alive for you during this season of rebirth?
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.
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brother[sister]hood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.
From my September Newsletter.
I delivered the “Interfaith Tree of Peace” for Providence St Vincent Hospital on Wednesday having completed this revised version over the past month. It’s quite large at 7 x 3 feet and with the addition of the dove, it called for a new title and intention. This painting along with “Be Peace” that I shared with you last month will hang in the Interfaith Prayer Room next to the chapel on the second floor (they are repainting the room so it will be a few weeks before they are up). It has been an honor to create this sacred art and hope that they bless all who encounter their beauty.
Given the divisiveness in this country and around the world along with the current struggles people and our beloved planet are undergoing, it’s been a challenge at times for me believe that art matters with so much suffering. But I also believe deeply that we each have a unique gift to contribute to a “more beautiful world we know is possible” (Charles Eisenstein) and if we can’t envision a better world, we can not co-create one together. It has also been affirming to all artists to hear from the Pope:
“The artists of our time, though their creativity, may help us discover the beauty of creation.” -Pope Francis
And so, my process continues to one of devotion and I dedicate this holy work daily to the healing of our world. May it be so.
Sending prayers to all those impacted by Harvey and Irma. And to our beloved Columbia Gorge that is currently on fire. There is much more work to be done to instill reverence and respect for the natural world in our youth. I may be taking a look at ways to contribute to this cause once my father passes and I have more energy and time to give.
With gratitude and love,
“Interfaith Tree of Hope” 84 x 36″ ©Amy Livingstone
“Be Peace” 48 x 36″ ©Amy Livingstone
“The artist’s gift is always to creation itself, to the ultimate meaning of life, to God.” -Otto Rank, Art and Artist
I’m excited to share the Providence St. Vincent hospital paintings that will hang in the interfaith prayer room next to the Chapel. They will be redecorating the space, so not sure at this time when the paintings will actually go up. The good news is that the chaplaincy group loves the peace painting above (though the antique gold is hard to replicate here digitally). However, I am redoing the “Interfaith Tree of Hope”. They found it too pink and not what they anticipated.
During the creation of this painting, I kept my vision and intention on the people who might be sitting or praying for their loved ones in the hospital. Informed no doubt by my holding space with my father during his end of life process and remembering, too, the hours I sat with my brother as he lay dying from AIDS all those years ago. I envisioned a tree of light, with the seed of life emerging from the darkness to bring hope and healing.
Unfortunately, I made the mistake of diverting from what we had discussed in our original conversation around using similar colors as the “Interspiritual World Tree.” When I’m working on an individual commission, I don’t show the work in process as it can change over the length of its creation and that has always worked for my clients. But with a large organization like Providence, I really should have shown them where I was called to take the piece before completing it.
It was a lesson for me and all is not lost as I love the painting but will be spending the rest of this month on the new painting. It should go more quickly as I’ve already worked out the design and know exactly what colors to use. Stay tuned!
I would like to find a home for the “Interfaith Tree of Hope” and perhaps another faith community or healing space will purchase it. If you know of anyone would might be interested, I would appreciate hearing from you or forward this email.
Creator of the Universe,
How infinite and astonishing
Are your worlds.
For your Sacred Art
And sustaining Presence.
Forgive my blindness,
Open all my Eyes.
Reveal the Light of Truth.
Let original Beauty
Guide my every stroke.
Flow through me,
From my heart
Through my mind to my hand.
Infuse my work with Spirit
To feed hungry souls.
-Alex Grey, from Art Psalms.
With gratitude and love,
My 92 year old father fell and broke his hip in December. It has been a wild journey in moving him from the hospital, to rehab, and now to assisted living. For any of you who have walked this path with your elders, you know the intensity and time this takes. I have had some sweet moments in the studio, working on various projects including sketches for the interfaith prayer room at a local hospital. I continue to believe in the power of art and beauty to heal our hearts and our world even amidst the insanity of what is unfolding in our country.
I will return soon with more offerings, art, poetry, and inspiration!
In our sleep,
pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart
until, in our own despair,
against our will,
through the awful grace