Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Art Making and the Practice of Sabbath

I co-led a class at Aldersgate United Methodist Church with The Rev. Karla Kincannon during Lent of 2018.    We focused on the theme of sabbath and how art making can help us to practice sabbath in our lives.

The first week, we spoke about sabbath as reminding us to cease, to stop activity and create time and space to be.  We created prayer candles to help us create a way to mark and honor setting aside time for sabbath.

The second week, we focused on rest.  Participants were invited to create a mandala as a symbol for self and wholeness, to use colors to create an image of rest and renewal.

For the third week, we focused on the word embrace and took things a step further by asking participants to create in groups.  It was delightful to see how each table formed community around making something together.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Co-Creation and Community Art

Art is about making space for new things to happen and new images and ideas to emerge.  Community art is about creating spaces we share, sometimes interacting and sometimes sharing a moment of reflection, quiet or awe.  In October I went to a talk at the National Museum  of Women in the Arts by Swoon and Liz Ogbu, two women who work at the intersection of creativity and community. Liz Ogbu is an architect committed to building communities as well as buildings.  Her focus is on the stories of people who inhabit spaces.  In talking about community work, she said that she prefers to say “co-power" because it notes a real sharing of power. She contrasted this with "empower" which still involves one having power and giving it to another. Her reflection on this impact of language really stayed with me and brought me back to thinking about creativity.  I can't think of a word that would suggest giving one's creativity.  It can be inspired, invited, noticed but not really given.  At the same time, my favorite kinds of community art not only invite but also require co-creation.  An artist may begin the idea or set up the framework but the piece only comes to be through the contributions of participants co-creating in the offered space.  
In the past few months, I’ve sometimes struggled to see how art might be relevant. And yet, for myself I continually come back to the arts to re-find my center and find hope in the world. For me what is central is the ability of art to serve community by inviting participation and then allowing participants to co-create in ways that they can see their small individual piece and also be part of a greater whole.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Color Wheels as Prayer

My color wheels are a form of prayer.  Making them takes me to a space in my head where my mind is clear and present.  I'm exploring relationships, pattern, variations.  And yet I can do so without judgement or attachment.
There is enough of a structure to frame a contemplative practice while at the same time there is room to explore and play within that practice.  
One of the first color wheels I made was a large collection of buttons.  It came at a time when two people close to me were battling cancer and waiting on next steps.  I felt sad but also frozen, unable to help directly and anxious waiting for news.  I had a bin of buttons on my desk and began just choosing colors and moving them around.  From frozen to moving was a small step and I was soon taken in by the task of sorting and arranging.  It felt like a prayer, like creating a space.  I unmade and remade a color wheel with this same collection of buttons a few times before seeing it down to preserve.  Each time the making was a routine and ritual I could return to for a comforting and contemplative quiet space.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

August Sanctuary Studio gathering...

Our August Sanctuary Studio gathering began with a reading from Frederick Buechner on how art invites us to stop, look and listen to the world around us and thereby to increase our sense of awareness of the present moment.  We worked with collage materials and metallic paint to reflect on color and light we notice at different hours of the day or different seasons of the year.  

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Inspiration for Art Camp

About a year ago, a friend sent me this blog post by Seth Godin titled, “What is your ART?”  

The following sentence has been with me and inspired my thinking as I prepare for my time as Artist in Residence at Art Camp.

“Art is a human act, a generous contribution, something that might not work, and it is intended to change the recipient for the better, often causing a connection to happen.”

As I think about what I hope and dream for my time with young artists on the mountain, I return to these elements: human, generous, risky, change and connection.

I look forward to working with our hands, to an environment that is high-touch, imperfect, natural and full of stories - stories of the moment, the material, the maker and the meaning.  My focus is on art as a practice and I look forward to the opportunity to practice in community.  

After my time with staff training, I am greatly inspired by the counselors and directors leading camps and their gifts of time, energy, spirit and love.  I can’t wait to see how this sense of abundance at Shrine Mont inspires young artists.  For me a generous environment is one with faith in abundance so there is open sharing of ideas.  I love watching artists inspire other artists and see the development of ideas and new iterations. 

This is one of my favorites.  To me there are always two risks when making art.  It might not work out.  OR, it might work out in ways that are a surprise and are different from the original intention.  The first is the risk of beginning, the second is the risk to continue. Continuing and working through challenges invites the maker into surprise, co-creation and a new story.  

This gets back to the idea of leaving room for surprise within the process.  Rather than thinking of art making as predictable steps to an outcome, it is an invitation to a journey. Journeys always bring change, even if just change in perspective. 

To create is to be vulnerable, to be real, human, a risk taker, and to be generous with something that may only come clear through the process of sharing; to create is to invite change.  
This vulnerability opens us to connection, to love.  A caring and supportive space and community allows us to make these connections.  

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Packing for Art Camp...

A few years ago we anticipated a big snow.  While others made last minute trips to the grocery store, I ran out to the art supply store and my studio to ensure I had enough projects to work on should we be snowed in for a few days.  
It’s the same for me when I travel.  There are two parts to my packing, the usual: Clothes, toiletries, bug spray, sunscreen.  Then there’s my art bag: sketchbook, pen and pencil, watercolors and maybe some scraps for collage.  How much is enough?  Will I want a crochet hook, any small unfinished projects I should bring along? I usually have to pack and unpack several times to get down to just what’s essential.  
I feel a bit the same way as I prepare for my first summer as Artist-in-Residence for Art Camp.  I’ve been collecting ideas and researching supplies since staff training in June.  I want there to be a variety of medial and choice so young artists can find something that really excites them.  I want to have just the “right” thing for each artist. 
As I reflect on my own process, I am reminded that once the journey begins, it’s as much about improvisation and preparation.  
One one family trip, I feel in love with the light on trees and fields along the road and began painting small watercolors in the front seat of the car as my husband drove.  I used my water bottle for water and put the paintings to dry on the dash board in the sun.  This ended up very different from imagining myself sitting in the woods painting but invited working quickly as I would try to capture colors just as they slipped from view in the moving car.  
On a train trip last summer, I had trouble defining shapes with watercolor as the train moved along.  I switched to collage but noted the paper I brought was lacking greens.  This was a chance to use my paints to create a palette of papers that I then tore to make the collages.  
In both of these cases, my excitement to make something and record what I saw overcame the worry of having the “right” materials.
Packing for art camp I’m reminded of this.  I want to invite improvisation and surprise and to remember that as much and I put into preparation, there real invitation to create comes with limitations and sometimes those limitations are the greatest gift.  I can’t wait to see what we will need next week that I haven’t thought of and to see how we will improvise to make it work.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Sanctuary Studio with Inspiration from Rachel Naomi Remen

On Wednesday evening, we began our art and quiet time with a story from the Kaballah as told by Rachel Naomi Remen in an interview with Krista Tippet.  You can hear the conversation entitled “Listening Generously” at this link:
The story is rich in imagery and connects to themes from Celtic Christianity about finding the light and inherent goodness in all of creation.  

These themes emerged in our discussion and sharing as well.  One participants shared Quaker ideas around prayer as a way of holding someone in the light along with the idea that there is dark and light in all of us.  

Another participant heard the part of the story about the breaking up of the light of the world and connected to the way a prism breaks light into colors of the rainbow.  

We shared images of spirals, stars, and the new light of day as well as other images from the natural world.  

In discussing the process of creating with collage we noticed the way some creations began with a specific intention and then found pieces to fit the plan while others began without a set idea and let the work evolve as they found different elements to add.