The Journey from Taos Pueblo

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Started in 1997.
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The completed painting in 2015.
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The photo that inspired the painting.

In 1997, I traveled to New Mexico to see and experience the landscape that informed the work of Georgia O’Keeffe, who had always been such an inspiration to me as an artist and an independent woman living on her own in the desert. I was awed by the beauty and holiness of that land and this piece in particular was inspired by my visit to the Taos Pueblo.

I have been thinking about how this painting has been leaning up against the wall in two homes and this studio and was never completed until this month. But 18 years ago, my world was very different. I was still grieving the deaths of my brother and my mother (you can read more about that here) and my painting was more therapy for me than vocation. For example, when I dusted this painting off recently, there was a rough sketch of a skeleton in the doorway.

Darkness still pervaded my world. I was also studying figurative sculpture at the time, enjoying the experience of working with clay and live models. But as a friend recently point out as well, I was also in the midst of what I have come to refer to as my “balls-to-the-walls” years as a graphic designer. The bulk of my freelance work at that time was with tech companies like Intel and hp although I had some smaller accounts like Cascade AIDS Project. I didn’t know how to say no then and was putting in somewhere around 70 hours a week working from one deadline to the next.

It was insanity. By the time the dot.com boom crashed and all that business dried up in 2000, I was managing several other designers and grossing $250,000 plus a year. I had a fat bank account but I wasn’t happy. Material possessions held little interest for me since the deaths though I was blessed to buy the sweet 1907 house that I was renting and fixed that up. Paid off my student loans. I also bought my father hearing aides and his first computer. I could help my sister(s) out financially when necessary. Grateful for all of it but at the end of the day, what is it that we are here to do?

Amidst all this frantic busyness, I was volunteering at the Dougy Center facilitating grieving children and the eight years that I spent there witnessing the healing of those children and families is the work I am most proud of in this life. Even though everyone around me including my father and our culture told me that I was a “success,” because I was making a lot of money, I knew in my soul through my own grief journey that life was precious and I was here to follow my heart—with my art and live a life in service to others. I just didn’t know how to make that happen, so life sent me another wake-up call.

In late 2000, I experienced another loss that triggered the profound grief that I had been unable to fully embody a decade before when I was 30 years old. This time, I had the time, money, and spaceousness to dive into it and had several healers including body/energy workers, an acupuncturist, therapist and life coach working with me to process it all. I believe everyone should have access to this type of community healing not just the typical three days off from work to grieve and get back to “normal” which is the heart of so much of our individual and collective trauma in our world. I was fortunate and this was a deeply transformative period of my life that opened the door for me to follow this path of art, spirit, and earth healing that I have been sharing with you over the years.

So in cleaning out the studio this month, I pulled out this painting as you can see at the top. Over the years, I have intentionally avoided creating art inspired by Native American indigenous spirituality as I am mindful of not borrowing from their tradition as a white person. I feel comfortable with the art I have created from the Andean spirituality as I learned and experienced directly from teachers in Peru who want to share their wisdom with those of us in the North. But for some reason this piece asked to be completed at this time. I included the image of Kokopelli that is on the sweet little seed pot (shown here) that I purchased at the Taos Pueblo although I didn’t know he was a fertility deity until after I completed the painting and a friend shared that with me.

Fifteen years later, I am continuing to walk this path and not sure where the journey will take me as I follow my mantra to “Make art. Make Love. Make a Difference.” And beauty making. Always beauty. There is less financial security but there really never is, even if you work for a large corporation. So much is changing in our world. Leap and trust. From the poet David Whyte:

Now is the path
of leaving the path.

And we hear our own voice
demanding of ourselves
a faith in no-path,
when there is no faith at all.

And moving forward takes feral courage,
opens the wildest
most outrageous light of all,

becomes the hardest path of all.
The firm line we drew in the sand
becomes a river we will not cross.

But the river of the soul flows on
and the soul
refuses safety until it finds the sea.

(excerpt from Millennium)

Season of Light and Peace

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Mother Mary ©Amy Livingstone

From my December newsletter:
“I thought of the wandering air–its pureness, which is its beauty; the air touched me and gave me something of itself. I spoke to the sea: though so far, in my mind I saw it, green at the rim of the earth and blue in deeper ocean; I desired to have its strength, its mystery and glory. Then I addressed the sun, desiring the soul equivalent of his light and brilliance, his endurance and unwearied race. I turned to the blue heaven over, gazing into its depth, inhaling its exquisite colour and sweetness. The rich blue of the unattainable flower of the sky drew my soul towards it, and there it rested, for pure colour is rest of heart. By all these I prayed; I felt an emotion of the soul beyond all definition; prayer is a puny thing to it, and the word is a rude sign to the feeling, but I know no other.” -Richard Jefferies, The Story of My Heart as rediscovered by Brooke and Terry Tempest Williams.

Holyday Greetings
I have been savoring this sweet little hymnal-like book that praises the glory of the natural world, slowness, beauty, and the life of soul and wanted to share this excerpt with you. A little breath of presence and spaciousness during what can often be a hectic time of year for so many people. Must this be so? After harvest, our ancestors rested in the quietude of the season and am grateful for these upcoming months when we can turn our energies inward providing rich soil for the soul and for the blossoming of our creativity. “Pure colour is rest of heart.” As with Mother Mary here, the embodiment of the Divine Feminine in the Christian tradition, the sacred blue that Jefferies references several times brings a feeling of peace. There’s been a lot written over the years about the re-emergence of the Divine Feminine for which I am grateful especially in terms of our (inter)relationship with the living earth. One of the many voices contributing to this conversation, is spiritual teacher Andrew Harvey. He writes: “The Divine Feminine is initiating a crucial new phase in our evolution: urging us to discover a new ethic of responsibility toward the planet; bringing us a new vision of the sacredness and unity of life.”

During this holy time of year as we move towards Hanukkah, Solstice, the return of the light, and the birth of the Christ light in us all, may we remember and nurture the Divine Feminine into being. This journey from head-to-heart. From hatred to love. From power over to power with. From meaningless consumption to a renewed sense of reverence for life and beauty. Let peace come to our hearts and to our world. This is my prayer. (Read more about Nurturing the Divine Feminine here.)

There are upcoming shows and will be returning to my graduate school alma mater, Marylhurst University, to present a paper at a conference in March but will share all this in next month’s newsletter. This day, I send you each holyday blessings and my deepest gratitude to all for your ongoing support of this ministry of sacred art and earth healing.

For love of the EARTH!
Amy

Andean Dreams

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“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: http://puakaihealing.com/hummingbird/

She Who Watches


Owl Woman

New work in progress.

Interesting what is emerging on the canvas. The egg came first, certainly a symbol of birthing, but wasn’t clear where this wanted to go. Owl came to me during my recent Animas soul journey and had this vision Saturday. I see a holy threshold, where shape shifting invites transformation and new ways of being.

From Victoria Covell’s “Spirit Animals”
Owl symbolizes Introspection: If Owl has chosen to appear to you, it is asking you to encourage that part of yourself that, because of inner awareness, is centered within. Owl spirit understands everything with wisdom because it has made a priority of taking the time to introspect and to know itself first. . . . Owl can also signify that one facet of your life is coming to a close, and that with inner awareness you will safely take a step forward into your next experience.

 

 

Mihrab Tree of Life & Sacred Geometry

Mihrab Tree of Life: 2014, 36x48," Acrylic & Jewels. Inspired by the Islamic Tradition
Mihrab Tree of Life: 2014, 36×48″ ©Amy Livingstone

“The artist attempts to make inner truths visible, audible, or sensible in some way, by manifesting them in the external, material world (through drawing, painting, song, etc.). To produce their finest works, artists lose themselves in the flow of creation from their inner worlds. The visionary artist creatively expresses her or his personal glimpses of the Divine Imagination.” -Alex Grey, Visionary Artist 

Although many visionary artists employ entheogens to ignite visions of the transcendent, my work emerges out of a profound mystical experience that occurred twelve years ago. This awareness of our radical inter-connectedness in the web of creation continues to inform the thread that I follow around my life and work. From this experience and wanting to better understand the historical roots of our religious traditions, and how Western civilization had become dis-connected from our place in the life web, I attended graduate school at Marylhurst University here in Portland. It was post 9/11, I was mid-forties, a lapsed Protestant, and knew very little about Islam except for the poetry of Rumi. To my surprise, Islam emerged out of the Abrahamic traditions of Judaism and Christianity in 610c.e. So much of what the media puts out around Islam is misleading. Sadly, there are fundamentalist groups in every religion and I think it’s important to remember that Christianity also has a long history of violence against the other including women and the genocide of Native Americans on this continent. I often contemplate what the original founders, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, would think of the ways their visions around love for God and the neighbor have been distorted over the millennia. I hold out some small hope that as Catholics and Protestants eventually found peace, so perhaps shall the Sunni and Shia. In the meantime, I pray for the innocent civilians in Iraq and those in Israel and Gaza who are suffering.

So, how does art contribute to this conversation?
I’ve always loved the beauty of Islamic art and had been researching this sacred art for some time in preparation for the painting shown above. Because there can be no representations of Allah(God), the sacred art of Islam is expressed through sacred geometry, arabesque (the winding vines), and calligraphy. The mihrab is a niche inside a mosque, facing east towards the Kabba in Mecca, and the direction that Muslims must pray. According to my research, the mihrab is also considered the place where the divine presence dwells on earth. So, my vision was to find a way to bridge the immanent (cosmology) and the transcendent (God) within the Islamic tradition.

I began studying sacred geometry and for any of you who have explored this realm you know that it is a vast landscape where one can spend an entire life wandering. Shown here is my drawing of the “Seed of Life,” the seven intertwining circles that represent the seven days of creation. From this, what emerges are two intersecting triangles that form the Star of David (Judaism) and the Seal of Solomon (Islam). The seed of life rests amidst the cosmos/stars on the floor inside the mihrab. The arabic in the heart of the compass within the tree of life translates as love in Arabic.
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It might also surprise some to discover that the Prophet Mohammed was considered an environmental steward. The Hadith, a companion text to the Qur’an, details reports of statements or actions of Muhammad that include his philosophy on the natural world. I saved this issue of Parabola magazine with articles on religion and the holy earth from grad school: “The Prophet’s (SAW) environmental philosophy is first of all holistic: it assumes a fundamental link and interdependency between all natural elements and bases its teachings on the premise that if man abuses or exhausts one element, the natural world as a whole will suffer direct consequences….The three most important principles of the Prophet’s philosophy of nature are based on the Qur’anic teachings and the concepts of tawhid (unity), khalifa (stewardship) and amana (trust).” -Francesca De Chatel, from Environmentalism and Islam, Parabola, 2007.

I hope you find this as interesting as I have during the research and creation of this sacred art. If you have any thoughts about what I have shared, please feel free to send me your feedback. Part of creating peace is starting the dialogue and finding the common threads of our shared humanity.

Mihrab and Tree of Life

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Good day in the studio yesterday. Putting the final details on the ‘Mihrab Tree of Life’ (working title) painting inspired by the Sufi/Islamic tradition. I so appreciate all the meaning and symbolism behind each pattern of sacred geometry. It’s no wonder the works of art from this region feel so holy. To quote the late poet John O’Donohue: “God is beauty.” ‘Arabesque designs, or islimi in Persian, are complements to the geometric patterns. They aim not to imitate the plant kingdom naturalistically but to distill visually the essence of rhythm and growth it manifests, recalling the archetypal Gardens of Paradise.’ (from Islamic Designs, by Daud Sutton). The five pointed star, or pentagram, crosses numerous spiritual traditions including Islam (as well as Wicca!) and embodies numerous interpretations. It also appears on mosques and in their religious icon. It’s amazing to me that we humans share more similarities than we are often aware of, if we could only look beyond differences and dogma.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there. -Rumi

Ganesha in Progress

Ganesha ©Amy Livingstone, Sacred Art Studio 2013

New devotional painting in progress (you can follow along at the Sacred Art Studio Facebook page). Ganesha, from the Hindu pantheon–worshiped throughout India and around the world as the remover of obstacles. He is certainly bringing a playful energy to my studio as I bring him to life on the canvas. So, it’s no surprise that this poem from the Sufi mystic, Hafiz, emerged this morning during my morning contemplative practices. Learn more about Ganesha here.

Wow
Where does the real poetry
Come from?
From the amorous sighs
In this moist dark when making love
With form or
Spirit.
Where does poetry live?
In the eye that says, “Wow wee,”
In the overpowering felt splendor
Every sane mind knows
When it realizes—our life dance
Is only for a few magic
Seconds,
From the heart saying,
Shouting,
“I’m so damn
Alive.”
(From “The Gift.” Translation by Daniel Ladinsky)