When my daughters were young the weeks before Christmas were magical. We visited a chosen store, sometimes local, sometimes in our travels, carefully looking at displays to make our most important decisions…the purchase of our annual ornaments, one for each of us that would be filled with our stories as we decorated the trees to come.
The most beautiful ornaments were made by Silvestri and as fate would have it, I showed my portfolio to the woman responsible for them, Linda Simpson… we immediately knew we would work together. As a licensed artist for Silvestri I designed complete collections, working with many kinds of materials and surfaces alongside the visionary Linda and production and sourcing genius, Maureen Monahan (love you ladies XXX). Our never ending product development meetings in that Boston office left us delirious with Linda’s wondrous discoveries from her trips to overseas markets. Cartons of those treasures were shipped to my studio, textiles, beads, feathers, trim, metals, objects all found their way into the collections I designed. I loved making prototypes even knowing that their nuances could never ever be mass produced but still, the painter demanded the colors, textures, finishes and authenticity of the designs.
These are the images that moved my spirit and imagination once upon a time in my art history classes, the Rinascita, Italian Renaissance, a rebirth of minds, arts and culture emerged from the silent piety of the dark ages, wealthy patrons of the Italian city-states sponsored artists and the philosophy of Humanism, religious subject matter persisted but now with a breath of life, 15th century paintings captured the realism of beauty, form and gesture, a flush to the cheeks, a gaze, a tilt to the head, cherubim and watchful angels hovered above, surrounding innocence with ethereal beauty.
Yes, I am the painter. And here are the prototypes, our ornaments are little works of art that can not be reproduced, the images, reclaimed wood, textures, colors, finishes, collected and created embellishments, all are one of kind, and with one purpose… to bring joy to the eye and spirit of their beholder, you
It’s hard to turn off the chaos that’s all around us and necessary if we want to be creative. Rituals help me to transition from my getting it all done mode to the opposite that is concerned with only the singular, the one task, the full focus, creating. Incense is burned in one of Alex’s clay works, honey scented beeswax votives from a Greek monastery light my collection of antique hanging church kandili, lit in the day for scent and in the night as companions. The day’s intrusions are a fire works display, look here look there, one burst fades and then the next and the next. The idea of serenity is a chase, where are you? The single flame is a meditation, a slow walk, an exhale, the path to calmness, high creativity and serenity, the place where art lives.
So how do you find your serenity, how do you turn off the chaos, where is that little crack where you can slip in and just have a moment?
The rituals in the preparation for show day, something beyond practice and refinement. Cleaning the tack, the scent of polished leather, the buffing cloths with blackened waxy tufts, the gleaming hardware released from a cloak of dust, the rhythm of waxing and buffing, the giving and taking, the yin and yang. My clothing and gear signal my transitional state of mind, an out of body experience, there is no longer the self and the horse, we are a singular unit, I find his breathing rhythm and it becomes my own. The world blurs to faded background colors, my sharpened focus is my horse’s head and the markers that are my cues. I know where the judge sits, I know that I am judged but it matters less when I am in the ring and begin to ride the circle. My ancestors believed in circular time, the repetitions of seasons and tides, suns and moons, births and deaths. There is comfort and familiarity in the circle, it begins and ends, you can not be lost because you will be found, by yourself, by your spirit, by rebirth. I ride the circle of my life, I ride the circle upon my horse.
After years of city living something changed with our move to the country, something we weren’t expecting. Not after all the years of turning off, blocking out, bolting in, keeping the sensory overload on the other side of the locked apartment door. We ventured to Long Island each weekend for Alexandria to ride horses. We knew nothing about them but in a short time we each had a strong wanting to be with them, something that was yet to be understood. I don’t remember the exact moment that we even thought about moving but when we found a barn on 3 acres in various stages of disrepair, we just knew.
It was imperceptible at first. We were changing on the inside and only began to really know it once we were comfortable enough with horses to just be with them. A stillness at day’s end, their exhale, our exhale. To find this pure moment in yourself is a kind of prayer, a gratitude, a transcendence carried on a breath. The gates open to a place where nothing is as you have always believed. Not even yourself. Silence has its own voice, ever changing subtleties paint each dawn and dusk, fill the sky with stars and wash the paths in moonlight. Of course, all of this had always been there but now was our time to know it. The only way to ever see the stars is to stand in complete darkness.
The seasons came and went like tides, changing the contours of our lives, leaving behind their tokens, filling the crucible of our creativity. We worked as always, painting, building, shaping, layering but now the sticks and stones had new life. A voice. We make things with what has been all around us, wood, stone, metal, clay, all with their own beauty, spirit, story. We make things with what is inside of us. Our collaboration is an echo of the old ways, we bring our skills, our ways, our knowing and infuse our creations with what has given us meaning. It is the meaning that sustains us on the journey.
The sun began the setting ritual in the cloudless southern Arizona sky, such a beautiful but unfamiliar blue edged by mountains, so different from what I see each day. The day does not surrender to night without notice, the showy change of light and color mark every single thing, dark to darker, dusk to night and then, it all begins again. Time is a circle. For the artist, time is a circle.
We are born filled with wildly free creativity and must pause to learn the craft, the tools, the mediums, the techniques, the disciplines that will be our allies as we pursue what we have imagined. And often, our course is changed, must be changed. I was the painter that found my way into the world of commercial art and design and I confess, I loved it, the parameters, deadlines, sensibility, pace. Projects with beginnings and ends. There was satisfaction in seeing a finished product but always, the disappointment of it never quite being as envisioned and intended. And then there are the complications of life. So that button that held back the most creative thinking stayed in the pause position for a long time. But the circle does turn, slowly, and it has returned me to the artist, the one with the wildly free creativity but tempered with the good lessons acquired in the circle. The painting, drawing, sculpting, etching, printmaking, building of the early years come to mind so clearly, the techniques of long ago are now present and ready to be the allies, the ones I need right now. The desert was the quiet place, in a desert mind I could think and see clearly, I saw the sun set and rise, I saw circle, I saw my circle.
The Arizona desert, the sun descends towards the Pacific that waits beyond the mountains. I walk the dust with Linda Kohanov and the black mare. The horse has tested me and then, trusted me and we have found our relationship outside of the limitations of our species. I have traveled far for my visits to Eponaquest but the true distance was my desert walk, the truth teller. The mare would not follow me unless my leadership was worthy of her acceptance. She had no reason to want my company, I offered no treats or commands at the end of her day. With every step, Linda taught me the power of non-predatory leadership. Power can be as soft as a whisper but can be heard by those around me, the animals, the humans, the spirits. My horse work, my riding, Reiki, and my spiritual practices all connect to each other, like ancient marks on a hide map that reveal the roads to be taken. In a moment such as this time stands still, the light washes the landscape, we breath as one, we are filled with knowing, there is no better moment, we have become ourselves.