Re-Visioning Our Holy Earth

I recently had the pleasure of connecting with Renée Phillips with The Healing Power of ART & ARTISTS is an initiative of Manhattan Arts International based in NYC. She is a fierce advocate for the arts and artists and am grateful to her for all that she brings to our world. I feel honored that Renée invited me to join her curated collective of artists whose work holds the intention of healing—self, other, world. You can view my profile, paintings, and other artists at this link. I am also contributing a few short articles around my work for her blog. The first one is “Re-visioning our Holy Earth” around the sacred vision for my work around the healing of the earth.

Re-visioning our Holy Earth
The vision for my work is founded on the belief that the ecological crisis is a spiritual crisis. That those of us in the developed West have become so far removed from our innate interconnectedness in the web of life that we are destroying the land base on which all life is dependent. This way of being has evolved over the millennia beginning, in part, with the rise of monotheistic religious traditions that worship a transcendent God, while rejecting the sacred within all creation out of fear of being associated with paganism adding to the terror of eternal life in a future hell versus a paradisal heaven. Continue reading at this link.

About HPAA: The Healing Power of ART & ARTISTS is an initiative of Manhattan Arts International Founded by Renée Phillips the purpose is to promote the healing benefits of art. We raise awareness about the artists, art programs and organizations that use art to enhance the vitality and well-being of individuals, communities, society and the environment.

Happy Solstice: Painting & Poem

From my June Newsletter:

Happy Solstice!

The Ancestor
©Amy Livingstone

You stand at the edge of the pulsating river.
Carved by wind, water, and time.
Smooth like the curve of Tahoma’s back.
Gently, I slide on to your sweet spot of bliss.

Wrapping my arms around you,
we caress each other with our firm bodies.
Hot from the sun, you melt my defenses;
and embrace my sensuous self.

You hear my pain and love for the earth.
We are one.

I leave your warm embrace and wander
through the deep, milky pools towards the edge
of the throbbing white river of life.
Spreading my legs; I welcome in the seeds
of passion and purpose.

Yes! Yes! Yes!
Answering the call of the wild.

There is something magical about the turning of the wheel towards the heat of summer, the fecundity of the earth and her abundance that is bursting forth. And the season associated with the element of fire that ignites eros and invites us to give expression to our passions and our creativity. What Bill Plotkin, in his brilliant book Wild Mind, has coined our “wild indigenous self.” I’m feeling a restlessness to get back into the wild(er)ness and have been re-reading my journal from my Wilderness Journey with Animas Institute last July. (You can read more about that here). During one particular day while wandering amidst the stone ladened banks of the White River, I had a sensuous encounter with this very smooth and curvaceous being (the large stone seen in the lower right corner of the painting shown above) that inspired this rather erotic poem. I felt a deep kinship with this ancient one and long to return to that sacred place. I sense many of us, especially in the developed world where the dis-ease of busyness is now considered the norm, are hungry to remember and return to this deep interbeingness with the the earth, and to our creaturely selves. I know that I want more of this in my life. How about you?

In Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology, David Abrams puts forward an insightful and inspiring thesis “about becoming a two-legged animal entirely a part of the animate world whose life swells within and unfolds all around us. . . and seeks a new way of speaking, one that enacts our interbeing with the earth.”  I highly recommend reading Abrams book or you can also read a paper I posted under Notes at my Facebook page: “Reconnecting to the Natural World: The Neolithic to the Ecozoic Era.”

While I may not be off in the wilderness at the moment, I am enjoying a slice of Eden here with nearly daily visits from a hummingbird and red-breasted sapsucker in the garden. Work continues on various paintings in progress including a soul-symbol mandala commission for a lovely woman in the Boston area. More to come when that is complete.

May whatever spark of eros that is alive in you come to fruition in your life and through your creativity. Art heals ourselves and our world. “The artist, like the shaman, demonstrates how one can live with heightened sensitivity and how art heals by restoring soul and by transforming our actions and our perception of life.” – Shaun McNiff.

For love of the EARTH!

Presenting at Marylhurst University

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I had the joy of returning to my grad school alma mater, Marylhurst University last weekend to give a presentation entitled, Contemporary Sacred Art and Spiritual Ecology. This was part of the annual meeting of the PNW Chapter of the American Academy of Religion, Society of Biblical Literature & The American Schools of Oriental Research. (Click here to learn more). It was very meaningful for me to return to campus, shown here in full bloom, and to share my work with this community of scholars.

Eight years ago, in 2007, I presented my master’s thesis here as part of the MAIS, or Interdisciplinary Studies program with a concentration in Spiritual Traditions & Ethics. Throughout my graduate studies, the intention for my research was to discover how we as a species had become so disconnected from our place in the life web, that we were destroying the land base on which all life is dependent. My thesis was a culmination of this research and I put forward the argument then, that the ecological crisis was a psychological and spiritual crisis. Today, there is a growing dialogue around the spiritual response to the ecological crisis that is now being defined as “spiritual ecology” and this is the core of my work as a contemporary sacred artist and activist. Here’s the abstract for my presentation:

Contemporary Sacred Art and Spiritual Ecology [Abstract]
What is the role of sacred art in the face of climate change? This interdisciplinary presentation is centered on the belief that our current ecological crisis is a spiritual crisis. Those of us in the developed West have become so far removed from our innate interdependence in the web of creation that we are destroying the land base on which all life is dependent. My research shows that this destructive way of being has evolved over the millennia beginning, in part, with the rise of monotheistic religious traditions that reverenced a transcendent God, while rejecting the holiness of the natural world out of fear of being associated with paganism and witchcraft. Alongside this paradigm, we are also seeing a resurgence of indigenous ways of knowing that remind us that the earth is holy and worthy of our reverence. Through my work as an artist and in this paper, I present a synthesis of these two ways of being in relationship to the Sacred that is both transcendent and immanent creating a third narrative as expressed through interspiritual artwork. In conclusion, this project will shed light on the way that contemporary sacred art can help us confront the ecological crisis including species extinction and climate change.

I presented under the Art and Religion panel and was honored to be in the company of so many gifted scholars, and a group of amazing women, in this section. Many had completed their doctorate work at Pacifica or CIIS (California Institute of Integral Studies). Two excellent graduate-level institutions that are bringing forward the new cultural paradigm through their programs. The conference ignited my passion for scholarly inquiry though pursuing a PhD that could take up to eight years of my life and considerable financial resources (that I don’t have) isn’t where I feel called to be right now, though I am keeping the seed planted for a future time. There are critical issues facing life on earth and at this time in my life, I am called to continue the vision and intention that I set forth thirteen years ago when I founded Sacred Art Studio. And so it goes…

For love of the Earth.

Thanks to Louise Paré of CIIS for the photograph during my presentation.

Andean Dreams

“Andean Dreams” ©2014 Amy Livingstone

A new painting inspired by my Peru pilgrimage. (Read more about that here.)
Symbolism around birthing and new beginnings continues. Original (12x12x1.5″) and prints will be available after the painting returns from my photographer.

About Siwa Kinti, or the Royal Hummingbird in the Andean Spiritual Tradition:
“One of the highest vibrational energies in nature is carried by the hummingbird. In the Quecha lanaguage of the Andes, the hummingbird is called Kinti and is the archetype representing the direction of the North. This direction holds the qualities of Siwa Kinti, the rainbow hummingbird, who lives between the worlds and serves as a bridge to those who have come before us (our ancestors) and those who will come after us (our children and children’s children). It is said Siwa Kinti was the sacred being of Machu Picchu in Peru and today bridges the two worlds of North and South America. According to the Andean System, royal hummingbird has access to the center of the Hanaq Pacha, or upper world, where Spirit is found. Hummingbird represents the paradox between action and stillness.” Read more here:

Where I Stand is Holy

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The winged-ones are speaking through me lately as I work on a new painting; the first in a series I’m calling “Where I Stand is Holy.” This particular vision came to me following my recent wildness trek with Animas Institute. On our last evening, we were invited to share a poem, song, or expression of our soul inspired by our experience. As I shared back in August (see previous post), I felt a deep connection to the forest, Tahoma (Mt Rainier), and White River. The landscape felt holy to me and was reminded of what Yahweh says to Moses: “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5). When we are standing on Mother Earth, Pachamama, we are standing on holy ground. So that evening, I walked out in front of our group, removed my sandals, and sang a song that we often sing during our community sweat lodge. I changed the wording from sitting to standing but it goes like this:

Where I stand is holy, holy is this ground.
Forest, mountain, river, listen to the sound.
Great Spirit circles all around me.

Singing is not my particular gift and rarely sing outside the lodge let alone in front of a group of people that I don’t know well but I felt called to share what was alive for me in that moment. The river spoke to me of letting go of safety and trusting in the journey even when the path is uncertain. It was a very sweet moment and am grateful I found the courage to be vulnerable in front of these other beings–human and non-human. How often do we silence ourselves out of fear of being judged or abandoned?

The first painting of this 4-panel series that will once again address threatened species includes the Arctic Tern, Varied Thrush, and American Three-toed Woodpecker (view more at my Facebook and Twitter pages) and they are three of 314 North American birds that are threatened by climate change. The Audubon Society is tracking this and you can learn more and pledge to take action at this link. The painting process has been emerging slowly as the vision becomes clearer to me but there is also a feeling of uncertainty as to whether I can actually manifest what it is that I am being called by Spirit to create. This will be a time-intensive project and feels a bit overwhelming at times. Some days, I hear that little voice inside my head that says I “should” (a word that should be eliminated from our vocabulary!) create artworks that are more commercially viable but this is where my soul is called to be. So everyday, I show up, listen, and trust that I am being guided to serve not only my soul but the earth and the creatures in this way. Where might you be called to serve your soul and our world?

Check back often for updates or visit my Facebook page.

Return to the Garden at AASHE

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Last week I brought part of the Return to the Garden installation to the AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) conference held at the Convention Center here in Portland. The largest academic sustainability conference in the world brought over 2,000 change agents to Portland. AASHE’s vision is to lead higher education to be a foundation for a thriving, equitable and ecologically healthy world. I appreciated being invited to bring this sacred art and add a voice around our spiritual connection to the earth. To remember our innate interdependence in the web of creation and the role of art and beauty as they contribute to the conversation around sustainability.

My art installation was in the lobby of the convention center so between sessions, attendees were able to stop by to inquire about my work and to participate in co-creating our community nature mandala. I had so many remarkable and inspiring conversations with visionaries and passionate students from all around the world. I walked away feeling very hopeful. There is a lot of great work being done on behalf of our beloved earth and our fellow humans. Just a few included: A young man from Peru is here completing his degree at PSU and will return to Cusco to work with his father around erosion/conservation at Machu Picchu. Another young woman, an artist, makes her own paints and paper from natural materials. A student from University of Colorado is working on zero waste. Many students from small communities in the Midwest, the South, and Hawaii where there isn’t much being done around sustainability are taking on the challenge themselves! Yeah. One company makes solar-powered kiosks for charging electronic devices on college campuses. Another company makes water fountains that also includes filtration so we can refill our reusable water bottles. Imagine, the end of plastic bottles!

I also had the good fortune to hear Annie Leonard, creator of the Story of Stuff movement, and now Executive Director of Greenpeace speak the opening night. I was so inspired and touched by her talk and everyone that I spoke with that during the closing ceremony of our mandala, I dedicated this offering for the healing of the earth to AASHE and all those who attended. Thank you for inspiring me and all those who are working to create a sustainable future that works for all.