Creating Beauty in a Broken World

Resurrection: 2015, 20x24" Acrylic & Jewels
“Resurrection” ©Amy Livingstone, Sacred Art Studio

“Finding beauty in a broken world is creating beauty in the world we find.” -Terry Tempest Williams
From my January Newsletter:

This from Williams’ 2008 powerful and heart-opening book, Finding Beauty in a Broken World. She details her journey from Ravenna, Italy, to the American SW, and to Rwanda where she helps build a genocide memorial with the survivors of the war. She follows the thread of a calling to follow one wild word–mosaic. She writes: “Mosaic celebrates brokenness and the beauty of being brought together.”

I was reminded of her book again after finishing the painting shown here, “Resurrection.” Although most would associate the word or concept with the resurrection of Christ, I am using the word in context with the necessary and emerging return of the ancient paradigm associated with our indigenous ancestors and the Divine Feminine of the Goddess tradition, prior to the rise of patriarchy. Although I would also suggest that Christ is likewise an embodiment of the feminine with his original message of inclusivity and love for the neighbor and stranger.

Holy mother earth with the ‘seed of life’ nestled in the heart of  the web of life is cracking and we desperately need the return of the divine feminine even more so given the recent rhetoric coming forward during the GOP presidential campaign against women, people of color, those of the Islamic tradition, and the earth herself. Fear breeding more separation. And yet, I know also that there are so many of us, you and me, making a difference every day in our world through our creativity and in our communities. Shining your light bright as I wrote about in last month’s newsletter!

From Amazon: “In her compassionate meditation on how nature and humans both collide and connect, Williams affirms a reverence for all life, and constructs a narrative of hopeful acts, taking that which is broken and creating something whole.”

Butterflies = transformation. Life. Death. Beauty. Preciousness of life. Bowie. Rickman. Frey. Levine. Icons and teachers. So breathing into the complexities of life  and in my heart, and piecing together a mosaic of beauty in a broken world.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

A blessed and wildly creative new year to you,


Art as a Work of Witnessing

Yet another powerful message from author and earth advocate Terry Tempest Williams around the transformative power of art and bearing witness. She speaks of art as a form of witnessing our grief and staying present to it. I have been feeling so much grief around species extinction as I work on my ‘Garden’ triptych, which includes endangered species. I can not accept in my heart that tigers could be extinct in as little as 12 years. I feel helpless to stop it while also being inspired by the work of so many organizations who are fighting to save our big cats from extinction. Most recently I discovered the work of filmmakers and activists Beverly and Dereck Joubert through a TED talk, which I highly recommend viewing. There is also the Serengeti Watch, an organization working to prevent the road through the Serengeti that has been approved by the Tanzanian government. The road is considered a faster, more direct route to get minerals to the international market for cell phones. At what price? This road would have an irreparable impact on the future of these wild creatures. If you feel moved, sign the petition at their web site.

So, I bear witness, I sign petitions, I speak out. I paint my heart on the canvas. To quote Williams: “Can we stand together in the center of our grief?”

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give–yes or no, or maybe–
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

-William Stafford, A Ritual To Read To Each Other

I have posted several articles here that draw from the wisdom of Terry Tempest Williams as a voice for the earth, for beauty, for grief, for bearing witness. Click here to review them. The artist she references here in the clip is Chris Jordan. View his work here.

The Garden

From Terry Tempest Williams’ book Leap: “Hieronymus Bosch put his finger on the wound. What is the wound? Our wound, separation from the Sacred, the pain of our isolation, may this be the open door that leads us to the table of restoration, may we sit around the table, may we break bread around the table, may we stand on top of the table, may we turn the the table over and dance, leap, leap for joy, all this in the gesture of conserving a painting, conserving a landscape, conserving a spirit, our own restored spirits once lost, now found, Paradise found, right here, on this beautiful blue planet called Earth.”

Leap is one of my favorite books by Williams. It is her personal journey through the landscape of this painting, The Garden of Earthly Delights, by the 15th c painter Hieronymus Bosch. There has been much speculation about this painting since that time which she explores throughout the book. However, being a naturalist and passionate advocate for the Earth, Williams’ interpretation is a tour de force that brings together faith, art, and history to awaken our senses to the beauty, to the sensuous world around us…that is present right here, right now. If you have read any of this blog you’ll know that this is also the heart of my life and work as an artist. Art in service to the Sacred, the healing of the earth. I have been so inspired by Bosch’s painting and Williams account of it, that I have been at work on my own version of “The Garden” in the form of a mandala at the center and two outer panels. It has been slow going as I listen to the call of the muses and the creatures who are asking to be included in this piece but I’ve had a breakthrough in the last couple of days and look forward to sharing what emerges.


On the importance of carving out time to simply be. “More and more I find that is the issue: how to create time, how to create buffers around us so that we are doing nothing. I think that may be our biggest disease right now–the disease of busyness. With all these modern conveniences that are supposed to be time-savers, I think we’ve never had less time. So I think creating open space, time to do nothing, time to love, time to be, time to dream, to think, to walk, is its own act of civil disobedience.” -Terry Tempest Williams (In an interview with Michael Toms, New Dimensions Radio.)

I haven’t posted here in weeks. Carving out time in the fading days of summer to “be” without stress nor the desire to do more than that while attending to the necessities of everyday living. Some activity in the studio–new sculpture and painting in progress–but allowing time to dream them into being. Spaciousness. Silence. Even though fire is the element of summer what I have been most alive to has been the element of air. The wind. The feel of it on my skin, watching the movement of the leaves in the trees, the birds playing at the feeder, and the breath. Spirit. In Hebrew, Ruah is the word for breath but also for spirit. Air, breath, spirit are one. Air is the one element (out of the four including earth, fire, water) that we can not see but is most essential to life itself and perhaps most taken for granted. In The Spell of the Sensuous, David Abram writes, “The air, we might say, is the soul of the visible landscape, the secret realms from whence all beings draw their nourishment. As the very mystery of the living present, it is that most intimate absence from whence the present presences, and thus a key to the forgotten presence of the earth.” By being present to the air we breathe, we remember the sacredness of life, in this present moment. I have often felt that the most radical thing we can do is slow down and the quote above by Williams reinforces that for me. It is an on-going practice. And not always easy as it can open up emotional wounds that have been suppressed by the busyness of life. (A therapist or spiritual director can be of support during this time as it has been on my own journey.) Slowing down doesn’t mean we are lazy or that we don’t do our work in the world. We tend to our lives but we become mindful of the places where we create more stress than is necessary? In the desire for more stuff, more money, or the search for fame or the perfect partner? All the striving, which the Buddha recognized as the source of our suffering (along with our aversions). Simplifying our wants and our desires in order to live a more balanced, peaceful life. We only get one twirl around the dance floor of life so, for me, I want to be as present to life as possible. To beauty. Love. Art. That’s what’s been on my mind these last few weeks. How about you?

Bearing Witness

A heartfelt message from author and environmentalist Terry Tempest Williams regarding the state of our public lands in the American West. These sacred lands are essentially under siege by the oil and gas industry with the support of our government (and many citizens of our country). I had no prior knowledge of the current environmental and human devastation including the high rates of cancer caused by the effects of coal extraction in Wyoming. It’s heartbreaking but important to see. To learn, to bear witness, to act. Perhaps we can find a way to simplify our wants and desires? To put less strain on our natural resources? What is happening in the United States is but a microcosm of what is happening worldwide on our beloved planet. I’m told a coal-fired plant goes online every day in China. It grieves me and I feel helpless yet again to stop this massive ecological assault but I can’t turn away either. We, as a global community, cannot afford to turn away either. In his Nobel Peace Prize winning memoir of the Holocaust, Night, Elie Wiesel writes: “Convinced that this period in history would be judged one day, I knew that I must bear witness.” This resonates deeply for me not only around the ecological crisis but twenty years ago I felt called to bear witness and speak out during the early years of the AIDS pandemic. After my brother died from AIDS in 1989, I became an activist offering education and outreach to heterosexual communities, but was ultimately met with denial. Fortunately, there are now drugs to extend life but so many people worldwide continue to be devastated by this disease. Unfortunately, there are no magic pills to cure the ecological crisis. This will require a radical shift in consciousness and in our way of living. But as the economic crisis has been teaching us, sometimes simpler can be better. More time for family, friends, community, creativity, simple pleasures. How will we be judged by future generations? What will be remembered about this time in history will be determined by how we respond right here, right now. Denial is not an option.

“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 restrain, 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 uncertainty we fear is the pause between our own heartbeats, the silent space that says we live only by grace. Wild mercy is in our hands.” -Terry Tempest Williams, Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert