From now until April 30 you can see a wide assortment of my pysanky eggs at the Kennedy Gallery, 1114 20th Street, Sacramento, CA, 95811.
It is such a privilege to connect my spiritual life and my art…and to see it reach farther than I ever thought possible boggles my mind. Recently I submitted a photo of my work to Clayfire Curator and just yesterday found out it was chosen as part of a Lenten Prayer Project.
Lent, the season of reflection leading to Easter, brings to mind different images to different people. Growing up it always meant giving up something important to me, like candy. Avoiding sweets didn’t usually last very long, and then it was merely a matter of confessing my sin and waiting for the Easter bunny to bring goodies.
Last year my Lenten experience changed that mental image dramatically. Preparing for a gallery show of my pysanky and working only in black and white challenged me both as an artist and a Christ-follower. Through that experience I understood, possibly for the first time, what it really means to depend on God for my very next step. And the celebration of Easter felt so much sweeter with the joy of adding color back to my work.
I don’t know what Lent will hold for me this year, but I find myself looking forward to learning more about myself and about God through it all. What about you?
…or Making the Leap from “I Do This Art” to “I am an Artist”
It’s taken me years to actually refer to myself an artist. And I think I’m not alone in my reluctance to claim the label. There is something mysterious and wonderful and scary about that term. If I call myself an artist, then I have to produce art, and be good at art and sell art, and make money selling art, or so we think.
Truthfully the title “artist” is helpful because it describes a way people look at the world…not simply as things you can see and touch and define, but in a way that pierces the thin veil between our finite world and God-breathed eternity. And whether I call myself an artist or not doesn’t change the fact that I am an artist. Simple, huh? Well, not really.
Let me take you layer by layer through my own gradual journey to claiming the title artist.
Layer 1—I Can Create. As did many others, I began exploring creative avenues early in life. For most of us it starts with school projects. Those simple drawings led me to creative writing to playing at miniatures to quilting to cross-stitch to clothespin people and eventually to discovering the fascinating world of pysanky. And now looking back I can follow the thread of creativity through the years.
Layer 2—I Can Do This Egg Thing. Pysanky, the layering of wax and dyes on eggshells, is a simple art yet it holds endless possibilities in terms of color and design. I taught myself the basics from a book and found I loved the challenge presented by each new egg. Even the failures provided valuable lessons as I honed my craft.
Layer 3—I’m Improving. The finished egg was never the goal for me but the process of creating was. I treasured my quiet time creating, leaving the rest of the world behind. My family got to see those works but rarely did anyone else so years of finished eggs lay hidden away in a closet.
Layer 4:—Am I an Artist? Eventually I began to give away some of these treasured creations to family and close friends. I was so used to seeing these eggs and thinking them commonplace, that the response they evoked surprised me. It made me realize that in sharing my work, I not only gave pleasure to others, I felt incredibly blessed as well. Gradually I let others into the private world of my art, and with much prodding from other artist friends, I “went public” with a solo show at the Art & Soul Gallery in 2006. Developing a website seemed like a reasonable next step but it took years and much hand-holding. Making the eggs is easy, marketing myself and my work is not.
Layer 5—I Am an Artist…I Think. By releasing my work to the world at large, I opened myself to praise and to criticism. This is where real and imagined fears come to the surface and they can paralyze an artist. I know, I’ve been there. And sometimes I’m still there. Thoughts like these race through my head. What will they think or worse, what will they say? What if they don’t like my work, and by extension me? What if my work really isn’t good and no one told me? What if…? I have to remind myself continually that what people think of my art, doesn’t change my work or my passion for it.
Layer 6—I Am an Artist…and So Are You. Having come this far, I sometimes have the privilege of seeing and encouraging other fledgling artists in their own journeys. Being an artist is mostly a solo gig. There’s no getting around the hard, often solitary work it takes to produce art. But because of that, there is great need for community among artists, for standing shoulder to shoulder, for walking together, for helping others to see themselves as God-created artists. Whether we practice our art or not, each of us is an artist and fellow traveler in life’s journey. How much sweeter is the trip when we link arms and help each other along the way.
I store pysanky-making supplies all over my house. Eggshells live in a file cabinet in the garage, tools stay in my studio and I keep egg dyes in our front hall closet. The boxes filled with dye jars sit on the floor and even though I clearly labeled the lids, it’s not always easy to find the color I need.
During the day there’s enough light for me to read the labels, but last week I was trying to work early in the morning while the rest of the house slept. Creeping quietly down the hall, I opened the closet door and reached in for the green dye, but out came the blue one. Okay, put that back and try again. Frustrated after my third attempt I decided I had to turn on the hall light. Even with the light on, I still struggled to read the labels because my own shadow got in the way. I scooted to one side, spotted the correct jar, reached in and came up with the right color at last. And went on to happily play eggs once more.
Later this small incident got me thinking about light and dark in a spiritual sense. Darkness didn’t leak out when I opened the closet door, the light entered. Said a different way, the darkness was overpowered by the light. And it happened that morning because 1) I opened the door and 2) I got out of the way.
Now the bigger picture started to dawn on me. On a much grander scale God’s light overpowers spiritual darkness in this world. I came to realize it’s God’s job to set the world free spiritually. My job is just to open the door, and then get out of the way so God can shine His light to those who need it. Big thoughts for a quiet early morning playing eggs, wouldn’t you agree?