Art as Faithkeeper
My aim as an artist is a re-consecration of art for
the purpose of the re-enchantment of the world.
The purest, most sacred essence could be
experienced simply as formless…but a dream
showed me how abstract is this intangibility.
I was shown a row of offering bowls, each
with a tiny written explanation by it:
This made me understand it more fully:
undiluted spaciousness is so ungraspable that
its rarified nature remains unattainable to those
who aren’t yet operating on such an ultimate level.
A bridge is needed…and that bridge needs
to be clothed in matter if it’s to be useful.
As Nigel Richmond said, in his 1970’s book on
the I Ching, Language of the Lines (free to download
here from Joel Biroco’s insightful site, by the way):
Each realization takes a liberty
with the reality of the one
but is also a link with it.
Part of the joy of being embodied in this
worldly realm is the sensual joy of what is
earthily tangible; angels, in their more ephemeral
reality are said to miss that ability to physically feel.
We’re only now beginning to move out of a long, long phase
in which what is embodied has been seen as, by definition,
non-spiritual, making it ‘natural’ for people to treat it as such;
it’s telling that dirt is American-English for the body of the earth.
This unholy myth is what I seek to redress when I create art,
for however tame, lame, mundane and civilized our life may
appear, within us our unkempt pilgrim soul is replete with
the same shimmering birthright of creative, abundant
freedom our most extraordinary ancestors embodied.
Similarly, however irredeemably urbanised, de-sacred and
wounded our holy earth seems to be, her pure indigenous
essence is hungry for heart songs, dances which shake the
dust from her body, offerings of ochre, plant, love and
presence which re-member her wholeness and beauty.
It’s quite simple. What we ~ this and previous
generations ~ have defiled, it’s our sacred work to
re-sanctify, to make whole and holy once more.
There is no-one else to do it for us; we must joyfully rise
to the challenge with courage, grace and devotion.
As Hopi Elder Thomas Banyacya told us,
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
It’s our quest in life to find out just how we’re to do this.
I’m called to re-member the world’s harmony
through art, choosing diverse forms of creative
expression as a bridge to spirit, to the sacred.
With the animistic view which attributes a
living soul to all things, the art itself then
becomes infused with this essence and
can become a gateway, a bridge, to this
re-memberance, for another person.
For it could be argued that the art
which never leave its creator’s
side has not fully lived.
As Kahil Gibran describes children,
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
As the children of artists, artworks have their own
destiny to live out. I put them out here in the faith
that they’ll find their way to the person to whom
they’re called, to open new realities for them.
They could be described as having a talismanic
qualitiy; embodying a particular, beneficial essence.
(Fabeku Fatunmise’s inspirational talk
Why Art Matters elucidates this along with
many other facets of the creative process.)
To use the illustration of a ‘touchstone’; just as
a simple pebble in one’s pocket can, when touched,
take one out of dis-connected mental loops and be
a small but potent re-minder of what is eternal,
uncomplicated and natural, an artwork can
bring you back ‘home’ ~ over and over.
Another potent analogy for me is the
Native American tradition of the Faithkeeper.
A person who assumes this rôle within the tribe
remains centred, at peace within themselves no matter
what dramas unfold and misfortunes strike around them.
In this way, they become a living thread connecting
the sacred heart of life with its often chaotic outer rim.
We’re all called on to be faith keepers ~ to not get
thrown off balance by the potentially shocking or
disheartening way life can unfold ~ but I’ve
just begun to appreciate how an artwork
can itself be such a keeper of the faith.
A deepening faith in the great
unfolding of your own small but
precious life…and in life itself.