A Contemporary “Canticle of the Creatures”

A Contemporary “Canticle of the Creatures”

This is my contemporary version of the Medieval “Canticle of the Creatures”

With joy we greet you Brother Sun and Blue Sky! 

You brighten and enliven all.

Ah, Sister Moon, such a comfort, 

your soft glow companions us, and with the stars twinkling by your side,

you give us hope when life is darkest.

While the Weathers, fierce creatures that you are, 

swirling rain and snow, winds and heat, 

swaddle us in your wild caresses.

Ah, Sister Water, so soothing, refreshing, invigorating, playful,

and Brother Fire, cozy, bright, enlightening, ardent,

both of you so useful.

You teach us how to be truly helpful

singing and dancing and making merry even as you serve.

O dear Earth, you are surely our Mother, 

nourishing us with every good and delicious thing, 

surrounding us with beautiful and engaging things, 

providing us with furred and finned and feathered ones,  

friends to enrich and enchant us.

But you are also most surely our Sister, 

created by the hand of the same Mother/Father God; 

we are born of the same with destinies linked.

Having been cared for all this time by you, our older Sister,

we now recognize that to go forward, we must walk hand-in-hand, conscious of each other’s needs.

And most fondly of all, we embrace the humanity of all humanity…the whole of what it means to be a human creature, spirit-embodied, both beautiful and disfigured, both charming and crude, both creatively  boundless and yet utterly limited,  

And we rejoice most especially when we can clasp the reality of all of that, and become a source of forgiveness and pardon and love to ourselves and others.

Finally, deeply encoded in our humanity, our continuing companion, Death, we call you Sister as well

…even as we name the nurturing creatures of Earth herself and Water and the Moon… 

who, in your way, completes each of our bodily lives as we know them and frees our spirit from those confines.

Ruminating about Tools…

Ruminating about Tools…

You know the saying, “to do a job well, you need the right tool.” 

After searching for a number of years for just that ‘right tool’ for one specific studio process, something unique to my way of hanging my tiles and moveable sculpture, I ordered one that looked very different from the one I have just about worn out.  I only had half a hope it would fill the bill. It looked quite different on line from the one I always used.  

It came the other day…and Wow! it is not only ‘perfect’ but better than the one I’ve been using for decades. The tip is angled to make the work easier; the handle is thicker to make it more comfortable for my somewhat arthritic hands to hold and manipulate.  What a delight!

I didn’t realize how improved my process would be until I had the courage to purchase that rather expensive, new, seemingly different object. But now I rejoice in the way the designer of that tool has improved my life in the studio.

It’s the little things, right?

Getting that tool made me realize how we are all sculpting away at our individual lives, each of us pretty much using tools that may have worked splendidly early on…but may have gotten worn down and are no longer really useful. 

COVID has and continues to bring all of us to re-assessing the way much of our lives work, but to actually make the change, that’s what takes the real courage…even in little things.  

Clay with a Conscience

Clay with a Conscience

Many Christian artists take the time of the 40 days of Lent to engage in an artistic spiritual practice. I have never felt called to do that…until this year.

Hearing that 43 US Senators had blatantly abandoned their oath to uphold the Constitution and voted to acquit Donald Trump of his involvement in the January 6 storming of the Capital, I knew I needed to respond to that with the power of art. But social commentary has never been the focus of my work. I was quite at a loss to respond and yet found it absolutely necessary to do that.

Eventually the memory of what I had seen in Olympia, Greece surfaced.

There, just outside the ancient Olympic stadium, was a WALL OF SHAME to expose those who had cheated. Each on a pedestal had a plaque that included their names, their fathers’ names, their crimes and the city-state they had represented (and embarrassed).

That seemed the perfect approach to highlighting the blatant dishonesty of those 43 Senators, only rather than include their own names…which I did not want to incorporate into anything so permanent as high-fire clay…instead included only the names of their fathers, since their crime echoes back and forth through history.

And so I began as Lent began, setting out to create 43 5”x5” 1/2 thick tiles. One side included the necessary words…the other, abstract gouges and impressions, and as the project evolved, I knew what I was creating was really “A Study in Orange,” and so glazing on the other side of the tile was settled.

My plan from the outset was to share these with the community on Good Friday: a kind of communal Way of the Cross for us as a nation. I was very uncertain that I would complete this project and, as a friend assured me, “it will take a lot out of you dealing with all that duplicity and hypocrisy,” because, not only was it necessary to focus on the betrayal of those 43, but authentically acknowledge the ways that shows itself in me. 

Remembrance is important; my hope is that recognizing this COMMUNITY DISHONESTY calls us each to action.

My intention going forward is to have the installation exhibited in more formal spaces that have a sensitivity to social consciousness; then to sell each tile and donate all of the proceeds to a national organization that works for justice.

Maturing Artist 2/2

Maturing Artist 2/2

My passion for drawing and art in general carried into my college years, when my drawings and designs became more distinctively my own.

With a Bachelors in English, I spent the next fifteen years teaching that subject, in addition to some art classes to high school students. I also enrolled in a series of college art classes in preparation for applying for a Masters’ Program. In those I explored all  media. So yes, I spent hours and all-nighters working with watercolor, in design classes, with sculpture classes…and finally… finally…my hands touched clay! It was magic. The potential of this material to transform into something useful and beautiful spoke to everything I understood art to be about. 

My first clay class in hand building introduced me to the painful reality that it is better to destroy a poorly done piece while still workable than have it fired and be part of the history of humanity forever…and we were strongly encouraged to do just that.  The following summer, I spent eight hours a day, five days a week for six weeks to develop a modicum of proficiency on the wheel. 

With acceptance into the MFA program at the Catholic University of America in D.C. came more summers exploring diverse media, but always with most of the time in the clay studio. My thesis show consisted of all sculptural ceramic wall works, one 8’x5’ destined for Neumann College which just happened to be expanding and was happy to have a work from one of their graduates to permanently install in the new building. My art trajectory was set.

All the years that followed proved tremendously productive, teaching art in formal classroom settings from pre-K to college, offering workshops from my studio, establishing community arts events and galleries, as well as creating my own sculptural work, both for commissions and personally imaginative creations. Those years were energized and energizing.

For nearly 30 years now, I have worked solely from my studio, Earthsongs. It was initially a very scary jump from the security of the formal classroom to my own enterprise, but I found it a useful springboard to create many community-based arts endeavors. At this point, with all of the experience, connections and collaborations behind me, I now feel I have come to a moment of centering both in myself and in the medium, called to explore clay as my primary communication and interaction with the world. My images and objects now are my primary engagement with society, and I delight in this new reality.

The Maturing Artist, Part 1/2

The Maturing Artist, Part 1/2

My interest in the arts began very early; going back to my single digit years and my parents’ amazement at my ability to draw “freehand,” in the phrase of the day. In elementary school if art contests were had, they often resulted in prizes for me. In one notorious year when ‘art’ meant coloring in a pre-drawn page, I was given the page Thursday afternoon and assigned to do the coloring; then Friday afternoon the class was directed to ‘color as Linda did.’ Ahh, art it wasn’t, and while embarrassing, it did build my confidence.

High School brought the possibility of really studying art. One of my fondest memories comes from sophomore year and my sweet-talking the registrar to change my schedule from business math to junior-senior art. That was a coup! Of course there was an art club, and senior year I was president and devised all kinds of new activities to engage and enliven the group. 

Music, theater, dance, poetry, all of the arts were very alive in that all girls high school in Baltimore in the early ’60’s, and so performance covers, drawings for poetry magazines, posters, stage scenery, even yearbook ‘end sheets’ in addition to regular art class assignments filled my four years. 

I was in love with the ability to create, found it a useful and much valued skill and knew by then it would always be a major part of my life. Art was about creating beauty, a useful kind of beauty and I believe that simple reality remains at the root of my understanding of art. And the words on the art room bulletin board (never changed in four years and so I remember it to this day), “Art is Right Making,” underscored that.