The art of (r)evolution

calltorevolution
Happy 2017.

The journey continues and art is more important now than ever.
“To those of you who, so far, thinking that this article doesn’t pertain to you because you don’t consider yourself to be a part of the art world, please hear me: You are even more essential to the arts than the rest of us. You are the audience. You are, quite literally, our reason for being. So, please, after you’ve taken to the streets, take to the galleries and museums. In our city, where 42 percent of the population is without religious affiliation, these institutions are our houses of worship. They connect us with something greater than ourselves. They offer the comfort and solace of beauty, and provide endless examples of what the human hand can do when it is guided by the heart.” -Jennifer Rabin, Willamette Week

Greetings Earth Lovers    

I was heartened by this recent article in our local indie newspaper about the importance of art in our lives. And the important role we each play in this (r)evolution of collective consciousness from separation to oneness, from fear to hope, from hate to love. Rabin writes: “Never is art more essential than in times of separation; it is the ultimate force of creativity, hope, reflection and revolution.”

For those who are new to my work, I founded the Studio in 2003 and have been committed to raising awareness of the sacredness of the creation, our interconnectedness in the web of life, and the plight of endangered species. Over the years, through sales of my work, I have donated funds to the World Wildlife Fund, Audubon Society, Panthera (big cats), and the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC).

Every purchase has contributed to “the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible” to quote Charles Eisenstein. Not only do you bring this beauty into your sacred space or give as a gift, you make a difference with your purchase and I thank you. Mother Earth and her creatures thank you.

Reverence for Mother Earth

Reverence: 2016, 15x30" Acrylic & Jewels
“Reverence” 2016 ©Amy Livingstone

The completed “Reverence” that became a companion piece to “Resurrection” (below). While working on this painting, the title that kept coming to me was “Why Do We Crucify Ourselves?” but ultimately the message for me, and all my work, is around reverencing the earth. I was drawn to add the Celtic knot pattern from my ancestral Scottish homeland and symbols of the four elements from the ancient alchemists. Remembering the wisdom of the ancients. I think it is important to also remember that Jesus worshiped and preached by the sea, in the desert, and in the garden; Moses received the Ten Commandments from Yahweh atop a mountain; and the Prophet Muhammad received the holy Koran in a cave. They experienced and encountered God, the Divine, in nature. Reverencing the earth as holy isn’t in opposition to loving and worshiping one’s personal God and today there is ever more urgency for humanity to awaken to this truth and to remember our innate interconnectedness in the web of creation. This is the call coming from Standing Rock (#NoDAPL) and our indigenous brothers and sisters. Are we listening? It is time to “resurrect” indigenous and ancestral ways of knowing that connect us to the sacredness of the earth to ensure a livable planet for all beings and future generations.

From theologian Matthew Fox, founder of Creation Spirituality: “Divinity and the universe seem deeply biased in favor of the future. Both celebrate emergence. Call it: Resurrection. Call it: New Life or New Creation. Call it: Evolution or Creativity. I believe in the future and the possibilities of hope.” May it be so.

Resurrection: 2015, 20x24" Acrylic & Jewels
“Resurrection” 2016 ©Amy Livingstone

Holy mother earth with the seed of life nestled in the heart of the web of life. Our current paradigm is cracking open. Transformation is assured. To maintain life on earth, we need the return or “resurrection” of ancient ways of knowing associated with our indigenous  ancestors and the Divine Feminine.

Impermance and Gratitude



It has been another month since my last post here. I am just now getting psychically grounded after I was rear-ended at a traffic light on the 26th of last month. Like most of us, I was simply going about my life. In this particular case, I was heading to the market for a loaf of bread to go with my mother’s ‘famous’ spaghetti which had been simmering all afternoon in preparation for dinner with a dear friend that evening. It was raining and dark, but I was was feeling very alive and joyous, singing, when my car was suddenly struck with great force from behind. I have been in a few small fender benders in my life, but for some reason this particular accident struck a deep cord in me. The accident literally stopped me in my tracks and I have been sitting with the notion of impermanence more attentively these days. I have been a student of Buddhism for many years, both in my meditation practice and as a framework in which to encounter life. Certainly the teachings around suffering—the First Noble Truth being that suffering exists—offered me great insight and comfort when I was in a very dark night of the soul twenty years ago after the deaths of my mother and brother (among others at the time). But it has been twenty years since I have experienced the death of someone close to me except several of my beloved four-leggeds. Like all of us, I have had my share of disappointments—loss of friendships and lovers, but no physical deaths close to my heart. I seem overdue somehow. On a smaller scale however, my accident—which totaled my car and left me with some neck injuries—was also another reminder for me of my mortality and how quickly life changes. Change. Impermanence. The cycle of life, like the cycles of nature. I wonder, do we need these traumas, small and large, in order to remember how precious every moment is when we get too complacent about life? I believe there is some truth to this (and wrote about this in my master’s thesis) because these experiences often bring us more fully into the present moment and closer to Spirit, or God. “The wailing of the broken heart is the doorway to God.” —Rumi (Trans: Coleman Barks). Last night, we held a sweat lodge ceremony at my spiritual community for one of our members who is journeying through a dark night of the soul after a series of familial deaths. There amidst the darkness, in the womb of Mother Earth, we each spoke of our grief and loss—both recent and distant—as well as the darkness that comes before the light and the gifts that grow out of our suffering (however long that process takes). We remember that we are grieving because we dared to love so much. It was beautiful, healing, and an honor to bear witness to the deep sharing from the heart.

Over the past two decades, I have worked to not take life for granted, to see the beauty everyday even amidst the grief at times, and acknowledge that death is an inevitable fact of life. As a result, I ask myself often: “What it is that I am here to do, to be?” But life, as it will, happens and sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in busyness or fear especially now with a deep recession and our world in the midst of change. My accident forced me to slow down, stop, and so I am asking the question again and realize that I have been attempting to do too much. I believe we all have many gifts, but also that there is one gift that we are here to serve, to bring to the world. “Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.” —Buddha. And in answering the question for me, art is always at the forefront of this conversation. How can art and beauty be a vehicle for healing ourselves and our world. I quote this often but feel it bears repeating many many times! “How do we find beauty in a broken world? By creating beauty in the world we find.” —Terry Tempest Williams

So, it is with humble gratitude that I allow myself to be a messenger for spirit to work through me in order that I might create art/beauty that moves the heart. I don’t normally show my work until it is complete but several people have asked me about my process lately, so I wanted to post these photos from my studio. The teal Buddha is complete as you can see on my web site and waiting for its owner to take possession. Inspired by my process in creating the Buddha, the feminine face of the Buddhist tradition asked to be revealed as well, so Kuan Yin or the Goddess of Compassion (She Who Hears the Cries of the World) called out to me. I am answering that call. In closing, from Spiritual Artist, Alex Grey’s book, Art Psalms.

At Risk

Life is always lived at risk.
We may grow complacent
And not realize it.
We may not smell the fresh sweat
Of anxiety or excitement,
But what are we breathing for?
Touch the nerve of passion
And live for greatness.
Fear of failure stops many,
But Death stops everyone.
So love without restraint,
Create the New,
Follow the courage of your highest dreams.
Fate favors your daring.
Risk surrendering to Love,
And gain your Soul.

Love and Threholds

Butterfly Woman Mandala (Spring): 2003/2016, 24x24" Acrylic & Jewels
A friend recently loaned me Paulo Coelho’s The Valkyries. It’s always interesting the synchronicity in which relevant insights or messages show up in our lives via books or other means just when it is needed most. As I close out this decade and prepare for the next chapter of this amazing journey called life, I have been spending time in reflection as is natural when crossing any threshold that brings us to another level of consciousness or growth. While in the same breath, I wrestle with my Buddha nature that insists that I remain in the present moment. So, I surrender the battle and allow to be as it is and trust that some pearl of wisdom will come forward that needs to be expressed through me. It’s not terribly comfortable in this place—this liminal space, betwixt and between—where there is potential for a symbolic death before a rebirth. Like the quintessential symbol of transformation, the butterfly in the chrysalis, awaiting its emergence to the light. Butterflies have always been a spirit guide for me (long before I knew what that meant) and always appear during times of transition whether through my drawings as a teen, more recently in this mandala as seen above, or like today in my meditation. So, I wait…I reflect. I believe Kierkegaard was correct that “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Which leads me back to the Coelho book.

The Valkyries is an autobiographic account of his 40-day pilgrimage into the Mojave Desert to find the answer to: “Why is it that we destroy the things we love most?” The Valkyries are spiritual warriors in the guise of a motorcycle gang made up of leather clad women, led by Valhalla. They are messengers who ride through the desert preaching of a new world to come, one that is grounded in love. (The book is rich with symbolism and I highly recommend reading it.) According to Coelho, we enter into pacts with ourselves and the world around us that keep us from pursuing our dreams.

Ultimately, he adds, out of fear we end up sabotaging our relationships and our potential for success. While reading, this also reminded me of Marianne Williamson who wrote: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” The story unfolds like that of an indigenous rite of initiation that includes a tripartite process of separation, transformation, and return. In the book, there occurs what appears to be a ritual cleansing of sorts at the start of the journey where he and his wife go into the desert and nearly die from heat stroke. Separation from reality into non-ordinary reality.

Coelho and his wife then enter a cave (the chrysalis of transformation) with Valhalla and recounts the pact he made with himself when he was in his twenties to stop believing in magic, love, and his gift. He emerges into the light and later receives forgiveness during a ritual theatre encounter. By the end of the novel, Coehlo makes a bet with his angel—a blue butterfly—to believe again. Acceptance and return. A symbolic death/rebirth occurs and the initiation process is complete. We often hear this referred to as the heroes journey to the underworld and his/her triumphant return bearing gifts for the world. In Coehlo’s parable, we discover it is love that is our greatest gift.

He writes: “We, at this moment in history, must develop our own powers. We must believe that the universe doesn’t end at the walls of our room. We must accept the signs, and follow our heart and our dreams. ” And, “The day will come when love will be accepted…..Our defects, our dangerous depths our suppressed hatreds, our moments of weakness and desperation—all are unimportant. If what we want to do is heal ourselves first, so that then we can go in search of our dreams, we will never reach paradise. If, on the other hand, we accept all that is wrong about us—and despite it, believe that we are deserving of a happy life—then we will have thrown open an immense window that will allow Love to enter. Little by little, our defects will disappear, because one who is happy can look at the world only with love—the force that regenerates everything that exists in the Universe.”

A deep soul immersion, or pilgrimage, to the Utah desert has been calling me for some time but taking 40 days out of my life right now isn’t an option. So, I ask myself, how can everyday be a pilgrimage towards opening more fully to love—right here, right now. Love is at the heart of all spiritual traditions. Love for the beloved, the neighbor, for God/Spirit. And for me, love of the Earth. Twenty years ago, I underwent a journey to the underworld and returned transformed out of the darkness. Since that time, I have broken the pact that had prevented me from living my life as an artist but I wonder where are the places in my life where I have prevented love from entering amidst my ambitions, my fears? How do I sabotage my own happiness at times? So, I wait. Sit in the unknowing of this threshold time. I reflect on my life. Learning to accept, to forgive the past, and open more fully to love in the present moment. As Valhalla says, “There is no sin but the lack of love.” What is the pact you have made that prevents you from living your dreams? What is the pact you made that prevents you from believing you are worthy to love and be loved? These are the questions that I am asking of myself these days. Never give up on your dreams or love!

The Truelove by David Whyte

There is a faith in loving fiercely
the one who is rightfully yours,
especially if you have
waited years and especially
if part of you never believed
you could deserve this
loved and beckoning hand
held out to you this way.

I am thinking of faith now
and the testaments of loneliness
and what we feel we are
worthy of in this world.

Years ago in the Hebrides
I remember an old man
who walked every morning
on the grey stones
to the shore of baying seals,

who would press his hat
to his chest in the blustering
salt wind and say his prayer
to the turbulent Jesus
hidden in the water,

and I think of the story
of the storm and everyone
waking and seeing
the distant
yet familiar figure
far across the water
calling to them,

and how we are all
waiting for that
abrupt waking,
and that calling,
and that moment
we have to say yes,
except it will
not come so grandly,
so Biblically,
but more subtly
and intimately in the face
of the one you know
you have to love,

so that when
we finally step out of the boat
toward them, we find
everything holds
us, and everything confirms
our courage, and if you wanted
to drown you could,
but you don’t

because finally
after all this struggle
and all these years,
you don’t want to any more,
you’ve simply had enough
of drowning,
and you want to live and you
want to love and you will
walk across any territory
and any darkness,
however fluid and however
dangerous, to take the
one hand you know
belongs in yours.