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
I haven’t disappeared my friends but after five months of events, I am back in the studio working. This summer, my intention is to get as far as I can on completing the “Where We Stand is Holy” series that began with “Lauds: Prayer for the Birds.” Shown here are details from “Sext: Prayer for the Desert.” Desert Tortoise, Sage Grouse, and Black-chinned Hummingbird. There are efforts to list the Sage Grouse as endangered species but much resistance from the oil/gas lobbyists as it would impact exploration and extraction in the SW.
“Sext: Prayer for the Desert” is nearly complete. I am also in various stages with Vespers (water) and Compline (mammals). These paintings inspired by illuminated manuscripts shine a light on endangered species as well as the beauty of those wild places under siege by oil/gas extraction, plastics in the ocean, and climate change. I’m envisioning these panels to be part of larger installation and will share more as that develops. In the meantime, I am offering limited-edition art prints with a percentage of your purchase benefiting organizations working to protect our creatures and wild places. Shop here: http://sacredartstudio.net/product-category/prints/
Come say hello!
Wine reception with the artists on Friday night, 7-9pm.
Show continues through the weekend. Saturday, 10-6pm and Sunday, 10-2pm.
I will have several original paintings including “Munay Pachamama” shown here in the lower right hand corner of the promo flyer, new limited edition giclee (fine art) prints, devotional posters, and note cards for sale. I will also have a selection of items of the “Creation Illumination,” shown below, to help raise funds for organizations working to protect endangered species.
Hope to see some of you there!
From my morning reading. Spring blessings.
How to Bloom
The almond trees in bloom: all we can accomplish here is to ever know ourselves in our earthly appearance.
I endlessly marvel at you, blissful ones—at your demeanor, the way you bear your vanishing adornment with timeless purpose. Ah, to understand how to bloom: then would the heart be carried beyond all milder dangers, to be consoled in the great one.
-Rilke, Uncollected Poems
Art: Vincent Van Gogh, Almond Tree Blossoms
Tell a wise person, or else keep silent,
because the mass man will mock it right away.
I praise what is truly alive,
what longs to be burned to death.
In the calm water of the love-nights,
where you were begotten, where you have begotten,
a strange feeling comes over you,
when you see the silent candle burning.
Now you are no longer caught
in the obsession with darkness,
and a desire for higher love-making sweeps you upward.
Distance does not make you falter.
Now, arriving in magic, flying,
and finally, insane for the light,
you are the butterfly and you are gone.
And so long as you haven’t experienced this:
to die and so to grow,
you are only a troubled guest on the dark earth.
Greetings Earth Lovers
This poem felt appropriate given my recent reworking of the Butterfly Woman Mandala shown above along with Vernal Equinox and Easter weekend upon us. Emerging from the dark chrysalis of winter, we find ourselves once again in this time of rebirth where beauty abounds. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, Mother Earth is coming back to life–trees, flowers, and shrubs are budding and birdsong is abundant.
It’s no coincidence that Easter coincides with Spring Equinox. Scholars agree that Christianity borrowed from, and was grafted over, the pagan cultures of the ancient world. The etymology of Easter originates from Astarte, the goddess of spring, fertility and sexuality. Hence the rabbits and eggs during the holy day festivities. This time of year does usher in a fecundity, a ripening energy that is the life force that feeds new growth, communion with the beloved, and our creativity. Perhaps you are feeling “insane for the light” as Goethe writes?
Butterfly Woman was the first mandala that I painted during a 4-day workshop in Canada back in 2003. It was my first piece of sacred art as I was launching Sacred Art Studio that same year and a year prior to the start of my graduate studies in Spiritual Traditions & Ethics. This mandala never felt quite finished and I was inspired to revisit the painting in celebration of Spring. Adding the earth adds balance and gives a universality to a message of global transformation that is attempting to be born during this evolutionary time. Here, the divine feminine emerges from the dark womb of her chrysalis, and holds the light of hope as Christ offered in his time. Once again, resurrecting a new, and ancient, way of being in relationship to each other and our world, Pachamama.
Spring and Easter blessings!
From my November Newsletter:
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 of God.
I first discovered this quote from the Greek tragedian Aeschylus while doing research in graduate school a decade ago. Robert Kennedy had recited this to a crowd during a campaign stop upon hearing of the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968. Kennedy was speaking to a grieving nation and it also resonated deeply with my own grief journey after the deaths of my brother and mother 25 years ago.
If we don’t turn away and numb the pain, those profound moments of loss that we all experience have the power to break open our hearts and to remind us of that which is most essential. Love, family (biological or chosen), health, community…a peaceful, sustainable, and just world. And for me, beauty and art of course.
Today, in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and the abhorrent backlash against those of the Islamic faith, most of whom likewise desire a safe home, food on the table, and a peaceful world, may we have the wisdom to recognize that we are one human family.
I continue to be inspired by my experience at the Parliament of World Religions last month with so many inspiring visionaries from all faith traditions. A Sikh woman, Valerie Kaur, spoke of Revolutionary Love. I’m attaching the video link here and hope that you will be equally as inspired by her message.
Like many of you, I feel deeply the heaviness of our world but give thanks for this precious gift of life in all its complexities and possibilities. Thank you for your support and as always, I welcome your thoughts.
A blessed Thanksgiving to all.
In gratitude and love,
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 www.manhattanarts.com. 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.