"Through art mysterious bonds of understanding and of knowledge are established among men. They are the bonds of a great Brotherhood. Those who are of the Brotherhood know each other, and time and space cannot separate them.
The Brotherhood is powerful. It has many members. They are of all places and of all times. The members do not die. One is member to the degree that he can be member, no more, no less. And that part of him that is of the Brotherhood does not die." -Robert Henri
This is a painting of Chaco canyon in New Mexico. A mysterious, indescribable place haunted by those who lived there over a thousand years ago. The presence you encounter is palpable as you walk and feel the eye of the Raven watching you from a cliff, and touch the stones embedded by fingerprints of the human beings who made them so long ago.
These ancient Puebl0an people were artists in the purest sense- who elevated their daily lives so that their world was their art. The place on earth they were drawn to live was their clay, and they did whatever it took to shape everything around this energy and beauty they needed to reveal. Their entire civilization was a testament to art, spirit and creativity in it's most distilled form.
My husband Gary, a music professor, took his sabbatical to write a symphony about Chaco canyon. He made it an interdisciplinary experience for all to participate in and I was one of those who became a part of the fabric of this monumental artistic undertaking. I created a series of paintings about it, along with photographers, writers, students, teachers, potters, and musicians who contributed and shared their gifts.
That is how the artist works, I think. When you are exposed to other's inspiration, it ignites something in you that must show itself to the world. It may be a painting, or words, or music or a beautiful mountain pass. Whatever it is, when it touches you deeply and you act on it, it becomes a part of your being. And when you allow that to show itself to the world, art is born.
We aren't as good as the ancients at creating and seeking the deeper most beautiful things because we are not as in touch with the natural world, the beauty, all around us every second of our lives. Still we have the capacity to see and shape our world into something beautiful and meaningful. Simply because were were born to do that.
In this 31 paintings in 31 days group I have been fortunate enough to be a part of, I have found motivation, inspiration, and a comradery with artists from different places working in different mediums. Some are writing western/cowboy poetry, some are painting beautiful birds, some are experimenting with new techniques, some are coloring, or making a daily practice and discipline of saying the rosary.
Art is not about a medium. It is not about a product. Art is the person, the soul, the community with a shared vision. To do art is not a narrowly defined club for a talented few. Art is how each soul experiences the world around them and gives that experience voice.
I believe some of the greatest artists are ones who never endeavored to be "artists", but rather moved through their world in a way that changed it in small or radical ways. Of course, Leonardo Davinci, William Shakespeare, Charlotte Bronte, Louie Armstrong.
But also the fearless Anne Hutchinson, statesman Benjamin Franklin, protestant reformer Martin Luther, inventor George Washington Carver, and scientist Albert Einstein.
All of these people took whatever it was they were doing in life to a new level. They allowed what was unique to their spirit and their soul to emerge. Because they were in touch with that spark inside of them, they changed the world.
We each have the capacity to be artists. Creativity in it's purest sense is our spirit. Our challenge is to uncover the thing we were created for and let it find it's way to the surface
What inspired my writing today was my fellow artist friend participating in our group doing art for 31 days straight.
My friend Rodney "Butch" Bailey", a wonderful writer, wrote about a canyon in New Mexico that reminded me of Chaco canyon. He posted this about Canyon de Chelly.
Canyon de Chelly [pronounced de shay] can be found eternally in the northeast part of Arizona. The Navajo name for the canyon means ‘place within the rock’…a place of refuge, and for those who are broken, a place of strength and healing. The curving lines found on the sandstone there are found too on the tips of our fingers, all this created by the Wind People, who bring breath to us, and with that our ability to speak. All the old stories are still there, on the cliff walls. You don’t have to be able to read, to read them. The Wind People still blow their gentle healing breeze through the broken down walls, and through the broken spirits of those who come there for restoration. The canyon never tells a hurting person ‘no’.
That is art. Living and breathing between time and space, connecting us all . I am so grateful for those people around me who strive to be artists in the truest sense in all of their endeavors in life. Whether they call themselves artists or not. They make the world make more sense, give meaning to the ordinary, and make our lives more whole.