Posts Tagged With: Creative expression

Film Review: The Alma Drawings

You may have heard of the psychic phenomenon automatic writing. But what about automatic drawing?

In her later years Alma Rumball felt the urge to pick up a pen, and her hand began to move on its own. She said, “My hand started to move and I started to draw.” In that moment these creations took over her life and home. Eventually when paper wasn’t enough, her walls, floors and even bathroom fixtures became crowded with repetitive motifs.

Alma Rumball

Automatic drawing by Alma Rumball.

As I watched the film I became fascinated by the remarkable similarity of the symbols and figures in Alma’s work to those in Maya, Tibetan and other world religions. I also noted some resemblance to the technique called automatism introduced by the Surrealists meant to give the subconscious mind free range.

But those don’t appear to be the influences here. Alma was raised a devout Christian and had always led an isolated life in a rural area of Northern Ontario, with very little exposure to the outside world. She never studied art and took no ownership of what she produced. She allowed, “The Hand did them.” And sometimes there were spirits that lived near the ceiling who gave her messages. The Hand—being in charge—would let her know when she was done with a piece when it ceased to move. When The Hand came into her life at the age of 50, she withdrew even more so and claimed to know nothing of religions elsewhere in the world.

Filmmaker Jeremiah Munce covers Alma’s origins, later life and artwork, much through her own words thanks to a recorded interview. The question it puts forth—as ascribed to a number of artists—was Alma’s work directed by a higher consciousness…or the result of mental illness?

Alma Rumball passed in 1980 but left a rich collection of work. Go to the official website to view her art and read articles.

View The Alma Drawings in its entirety on You Tube. Highly recommend not merely as a curiosity but also as a question regarding the creative portal. Released 2005 in Canada, 46 minutes.

 

 

Categories: Creativity Strategies, Film Review, Spiritual Evolution, Visual Arts | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

When the Dream Just Isn’t Enough

I’ve just started reading Gloria Steinem’s new memoir My Life on the Road…and I’m held. Its grasp started with an excerpt on the jacket flap.

 When people ask me why I still have hope and energy after all these years, I always say: Because I travel. Taking to the road—by which I mean letting the road take you—changed who I thought I was. The road is messy in the way that real life is messy. It leads us out of denial and into reality, out of theory and into practice, out of caution and into action, out of statistics and into stories—in short, out of our heads and into our hearts.

 Steinem is now in her 80s…and she still travels. She writes how the word ‘still’ entered her life when friends would say: So you’re still traveling? As if it should have a timeline on it. It all started in childhood when her father would consistently throw the family in the car and take off cross-country to discover what they would find.

Reading just these first several pages is causing me to reflect on my own life—my own odyssey that has brought me to where I reside now…on the road…returning to ground the experiences at home for a few months or less before resuming.

It occurs to me that many of us need to be given ‘permission’ to travel, to step out of the comfort zone called home. I mean travel in the sense of journey…not as a tourist but to viscerally experience the land and people…to take a risk…to open your mind. It’s not a crazy or frivolous pastime. I’ve traveled in 31 countries and 35 US states. A good number are still on my list. The road is also in front of me. I’ve made friends and created deep relationships. I’ve gone places few venture—over and over.  Many have entered my bloodstream and reside in my heart: shaping my lifework, writing and art. Probably other expressions as well.

It’s my way of life: my choice. But my introduction was not unlike Gloria Steinem’s.

Both my folks came from a small town in East Texas. Neither had been exposed to other ways of life outside their geographical area but were well familiar with tough times. I think it must have been the need for more than just survival that initiated their leaving. My dad joined the Air Force not long before I was born. Within seven years we moved four times. But the big one that opened the road for me was our move to Paris for nearly five years. By that time my dad had become an attorney, speaking French with his Texan accent, defending GIs in French courts.

Passport Early

On our way to Paris.

My father had a place to go to every day, an office and colleagues. My mother didn’t. I put myself in her place and what it must have been like for a small town girl who spoke no French to step on the Metro, alone with her child in hand, and travel like any other Parisian in that big city. We did it consistently. I have distinct remembrances. Some of my fondest memories of childhood and adolescence are traveling through the Spanish and Italian countryside, a month at a time, and all the shorter trips as a family we were able to make, wandering the streets in tiny villages, eating unfamiliar food, hearing languages strange to my ear. This is one of the biggest early gifts my parents gave to me—curiosity and appreciation—even though I’m sure they didn’t realize it at the time.

After we returned to the US, I was stationery between the years 14-17. But ventured out after high school graduation to make the requisite trip to Myrtle Beach and the Smoky Mountains, my mom going with me after a friend pooped out. Then at 24 I moved to Tehran to work for six months…and I’ve been on the road ever since.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu, 1996.

I could never be just an armchair traveler, dreaming of the journey but never embarking. Obstacles? That’s just the mind creating distractions, attempting to keep you mired in the status quo. It’s a signal of being on the threshold, especially so the louder the internal dialogue. But if you move through your fear—however it presents itself…thoughts of financial scarcity, overwhelm, safety concerns, the myriad rationalizations—ahhh…there the journey presents itself.

When I started this blog in 2012, I posted Spiritual Travel: Destination or Process? which I originally wrote for my newsletter around 2005. I find it still to be true today…and more.

 

 

Categories: Personal Growth, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Book Review – Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O’Keeffe

GeorgiaI’ve read biographies on Georgia O’Keeffe. But this is different. You might think because this is a novel it’s a poof piece. It’s not. The author portrays the relationship between O’Keeffe and her patron-photographer-husband Alfred Stieglitz from the first enchantment to its lingering disintegration. It’s written from the painter’s perspective. While no one can ever get completely inside someone else’s head, it’s evident that Dawn Tripp has done the extensive research necessary that makes the book plausible. Believable. This is essentially a book about the precise care and manipulation Stieglitz gave to the creation of O’Keeffe’s public persona from the point she was moldable to when she was not. It’s a story laid against the backdrop of their great talents and marriage—the play between Steiglitz’s control and O’Keeffe’s internal conflict. It’s about the position women were historically placed and their treatment … and how this woman claimed her rightful recognition as one of the greatest American artists. Perhaps there’s an argument that O’Keeffe wouldn’t have made it there without Stieglitz. But I don’t find merit in it. She was a force all her own.

As an artist myself I appreciate the way the author wrote from an artist’s sensitivities on the form. That, too, made the book believable.

…It occurs to me now that art is exactly this: making what’s unseen but all around, visible. Having that sort of faith…

And it pained me to read what she wrote of O’Keeffe going blind. She enlists the gardener’s help:

…to lead my left hand onto the first sheet of paper… He leaves and I’m alone. I paint shapes—a wave, a circle—the circle slides like grace over the page. I make forms that echo those early abstract forms I made when I was no one, and it occurs to me that art is a separate country, outside the body, outside time, like death or desire, an element beyond our physical selves we are traveling toward…

 

Available on Amazon and elsewhere.

 

Categories: Book Review, Creativity Strategies, Visual Arts | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

An Inspired Life: Xavier Quijas Yxayotl

In late 2013 Xavier Quijas Yxayotl—Huichol composer, musician and artist—shared his life story with me. It was a real privilege to hear of his origins, struggles and inspirations. The thing about Xavier is that you’d normally never know the details of his backstory. But maybe you would pick up there’s something deeper. He carries a sense of humility that typically only comes by having gone through hard times…survived…and having instilled great meaning in his life, touching others through his craft and presence.

Xavier Quijas Yxayotl

Portrait of Xavier Quijas Yxayotl with one of his handmade ancestral flutes. ©2015 Barry Wolf. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

With permission I turned his disclosures into a narrative that was picked up in 2014 by Still Point Arts Quarterly for their Fall 2015 issue. I thank editor Christine Cote for giving this important story space. I can now share the story in its entirety here as Xavier told it to me. I hope you are as inspired as I was.

 ***

 Through the Dark

 The boy fidgeted. He was in foreign territory, held prisoner by his mother’s hand on his arm. They sat side-by-side in matching chairs before the great divide of a massive desk. His mother’s voice rose and fell. Words tumbled over each other as though, if she didn’t get them out fast enough, the man considering them would summarily swat them out the door, no different than pesky insects.

An hour before, his mother pulled him along inner city streets into a massive building. They finally stopped in front of one door among several down the long hall. She smoothed her skirt and combed fingers through his black hair. With a deep breath, she opened the door. The secretary looked up.

“Please, I would like to see the director,” his mother said.

“Do you have an appointment?” The secretary appraised them, noting their dusky skin and worn clothing. When she shook her head, the secretary motioned them to a row of chairs against the wall and picked up the phone. They waited.

The man behind the desk was impeccably dressed in a gray suit matching the color shot through his dark hair and mustache. The lines in his face softened as he listened, shifting attention from the Indian woman before him to the boy, eyes downcast, clutching a notebook in his lap.

“Maestro Caracalla, I am Señora Isabel. This is my son Xavier. He’s different, a good artist. In school he always fights because no one understands him, not the teachers, not the other kids. He’s always thinking. Since he was old enough to hold a pencil, he always draws and writes about everything. He’s like an old person in a little boy’s body!”

The woman continued at length relating how, in the last two years, her son kept running away to live on the streets. Xavier slept in parks, skipped school, survived by selling newspapers and shoe shines. Terrified, she would search and drag him home, if she was fortunate to find him. But the next day he’d be gone again. He wouldn’t do what his father wanted: to set aside these silly pastimes, to work making shoes to help support the family.

“We have seven children. Xavier is the youngest boy. We are very poor. But he is so different and I’m afraid what might happen to him. Is there something you can do?” She finished softly.

Maestro Caracalla gestured to the boy’s notebook, “Is this your work?”

Xavier froze in his chair and prayed to disappear. He didn’t think the Maestro would hit him like his father did, but he dreaded the reprimand he knew would come. He whispered, “Yes.”

“Show it to me then.” The room was silent save the sound of Maestro Caracalla slowly turning pages after scrutinizing each one. Finally he closed the book. Looking over wire-rimmed glasses, his eyes seemed to bore into Xavier’s very soul. He gazed at Señora Isabel then back at the boy, whose reddened face was moist with sweat. “Señora, I don’t think you have any idea what a beautiful child you have. What ideas! His writing doesn’t match his age. He’s not a normal child. You have to do something with him. We have to help him!”

Maestro Caracalla told her to bring the boy back the following Monday, handing over a long list of art materials to buy. There’s not enough to eat! How can we buy art supplies? Guilt flooded Xavier’s mind. He was certain of a dead end. But at the appointed time his mother delivered him to the Maestro. She could only muster a clean new drawing tablet and 6B pencil, keeping even that small expenditure hidden from her husband. The secretary ordered a sandwich for Xavier, although he said he didn’t need anything.

“Ah, there you are,” the Maestro swept in from his office. He took Xavier by the hand and led him down the hall. They stopped in all the classrooms where he spoke to the teachers, “I want to introduce Xavier. He’s coming to take classes.”

That is how an eleven-year-old Huichol Indian boy from the streets came to attend Escuela des Artes Plásticas, the art school in Guadalajara, Mexico—the youngest pupil ever to sit alongside regular university students. They became his peers and friends. Maestro Caracalla continued as his benefactor for six years, making sure he had all the classes he needed: writing, painting, art history and more…

Xavier Painting 1

Painting by Xavier at the age of 18. Photo courtesy of Xavier Quijas Yxayotl. All rights reserved.

 

Xavier painting-2

Xavier with one of his painted pow wow drums. Photo courtesy of Xavier Quijas Yxayotl. All rights reserved.

Continue reading Xavier’s story here and find out how he returned to the Huichol roots denied him as a child, and went on to resurrect ancient instruments lost to time through visitations from his ancestors.

Categories: Indigenous Wisdom, Interview, Music Review, The Writing Life, Visual Arts | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

New Art by Kayum Ma’ax Garcia

In a previous post I told the story of visiting artist Kayum Ma’ax Garcia in his home in the Lacandón Maya village of Nahá during our January 2015 Maya program. During that visit the online Allies Gallery was born. The entire journey was pure magic. The gallery was just one instance of something that evolved organically. As a result, Kayum is able to offer his art to a wider world and has sold some prints. I’m very happy about that, and Kayum and family are ecstatic.

Recently Kayum’s work was featured in Galería MUY located in San Cristóbal de Las Casas. The MUY, now part of our Kinship Circle, gives exposure to contemporary art of Indigenous artists of Chiapas. With their help, we’ve been able to bring more of Kayum’s artwork to you.

Birth

Title: Birth. Acrylic on canvas. ©2014 Kayum Ma’ax Garcia

The Heart of the World

Title: The Heart of the World. Acrylic on canvas. ©2015 Kayum Ma’ax Garcia.

To view more, go directly to the Allies Gallery. Kayum rarely leaves his isolated rainforest village. His art is unique. By purchasing through our online gallery, proceeds support this Indigenous artist document a way of life that is increasingly lost.

 

 

Categories: cultural interests, Lacandón Maya, Visual Arts | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Book Review: Traveling with Pomegranates

Traveling with PomegranatesI had just finished reading The Invention of Wings and was so taken with its sensitivity and historical significance that I went online to see what else Sue Monk Kidd had written. That’s when I discovered Traveling with Pomegranates, a memoir written by mother and daughter. What initially attracted me was its framework: spiritually oriented travel to sacred sites. Since I sponsor spiritual journey programs myself, it was a natural draw. I found so much richness in this container.

The content is drawn from the personal journals of Sue Monk Kidd and daughter Ann Kidd Taylor as they journey to sites in Greece, Turkey and France, touching down in-between at home in South Carolina, over a few year period. Mother is poised on the cusp of her fifties. Daughter is barely twenty. Both face age-related life events, desires and the all-too-often wrestling…internal questioning… that comes as a result. I suspect they would have engaged with these universal aspects anyway. But the process was marked out in two ways that probably intensified it and kept it rolling. First, it was the awareness they gave to each other during their travels, based on their relationship, even as they were going through their own worry and self-discovery. The perspective and emotional content based on age was prominent.

The other significance had to do with the way each of them engaged the iconic historical and mythological feminine figures based on their travel to particular sacred sites. And how the unfolding carries forward over time, strengthening itself through further focused intent and journeying. I know this through my own experiences and witnessing others in my travels who do the same.

The special treat for me was Sue Monk Kidd’s disclosure of her own process as a writer—inspirations and tribulations. At that point, she was known for nonfiction, kicking up a bit of a fuss in theological circles with The Dance of the Dissident Daughter. Yet her heart called out to write novels. She’s frank about the self-doubt but finally plowing forward anyway. We don’t often think about bestselling authors or others of acclaim in that light. It makes her human in our eyes, encourages us to stay the course.

This is a book that caused me to reflect on my own stage of life: where I’ve been, the Great Unknown yet to unfold, and opportunities to embrace living even more fully.

Available in print and ebook on Amazon and elsewhere.

 

 

Categories: Book Review, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel, The Writing Life | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Podcast Review: The Moth – Stories Told Live

The MothA few months ago I discovered The Moth and I’ve been addicted every since. The Moth is all about storytelling, not by famous writers but mostly, everyday people—true stories. The venues come via live events, radio and podcasts: stories about life circumstances, discoveries and lessons. At turns, the tales are funny, informative, poignant, uplifting, surprising. Sometimes the storyteller’s voice cracks with emotion. For every one I’ve thus far heard I’ve been touched in some way. Better yet, I’m not listening to or watching some kind of drivel that’s so prevalent these days on TV or radio. The narratives mean something. It’s about our humanity.

George Dawes Green is the Founder of The Moth. It says this on the website: “George wanted to recreate, in New York, the feeling of sultry summer evenings in his native Georgia, where he and his friends would gather on his friend Wanda’s porch to share spellbinding tales. There was a hole in the screen which let in moths that were attracted to the light, and the group started calling themselves The Moths.”

For me, it takes me back to my childhood when we lived in France during the time there was no TV. (Yes, it was that long ago.) I used to lay on the floor next to the radio—riveted—taking in the old shows, imagining pictures in my head.

I’ve opted to subscribe to the podcast so they’re automatically available on my iPad when it’s convenient for me. So they’ve entertained me on long road trips and kept me awake, when I’m cooking or other activities where I don’t need focused attention. Best of all when I’m relaxing after a long day.

Here are just some I’ve listened to lately and thoroughly enjoyed…

Go here to peruse the archives, see if there’s a live event near you or subscribe to the podcast.  And…if you have a story and want to tell it, contact them. That’s how The Moth fills their shows.

Categories: Creativity Strategies, Podcast Review | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

In Remembrance: Mary Magdalen

My Magdalen Heart

Prophet Series: My Magdalen Heart
Oil with gold leaf on canvas. by Carla Woody

Today is Mary Magdalene’s Feast Day. A few years ago I created My Magdalen Heart as one of my Prophet Series, an oil with gold leaf on canvas. This artwork pays respect to Mary Magdalen who has been denied recognition for her true role by the traditional church, and honors all teachers who go quietly about their service with humility.

The original artwork now lives in Albuquerque with a woman who’d had a relationship with The Magdalen since childhood. She came into The Gallery in Williams where I show my work and fell in love. I happened to be in The Gallery that day. She told me her stories with misty eyes and left very happy. It was emotional for us both. I later received a note from her thanking me again and said, “We put her in the place of honor over the fireplace. I was afraid the painting would get lost because of the size of the fireplace, which is huge. But she commands the room and her eyes follow me everywhere.”

I felt so blessed to received this communication, just as blessed as when I was painting the piece…because it felt that Mary spoke to me as I was doing so.

In Sophia’s Children Jamie Walters writes: Who was Mary Magdalene, really?

And why is this question important at all given that we’re talking about a woman who lived 2,000 years ago, and about whom we have only slender references?

Read more on Jamie’s blog.

Categories: Arts, Creativity Strategies, Gratitude, Healing, Sacred Reciprocity | Tags: , | 2 Comments

We Are All Artists

When I’m especially taken with a book, I greatly anticipate the author’s next one. This was the case with one of my favorite novelists, Jim Fergus. Visits to his website had promised one for several years, even with a specific title and subject matter that is of interest to me. But each time I checked … nothing … and I’d log off disappointed. A few weeks ago I checked, this time discovering he had a new one out. I promptly ordered it. Yet again he’d produced a story that touched me in tender places, as much as it informed. I did something I don’t normally do: I emailed him to express my gratitude that he’s writing again.

He responded. It started a conversation.

Jim told me the book had been published in France and done quite well. But when he went searching for a US publisher, no one was interested. Unbelievable, I thought. This is a writer whose two previous books—One Thousand White Women and The Wild Girl—were bestsellers! But with this new one? He’d stepped out of his genre of The West and Native Americans. He was no longer in the neat slot US publishers had placed him—therefore, a risk.

He went on to say the specific title he’d named on his website, Marie-Blanche, was published in France in 2011, currently in development for a mini-series there. Same problem with US publishers. Jim finally decided to self-publish The Memory of Love, the novel I’d most recently read … just to have a new book in print in my own country.*

This goes to show that even widely celebrated writers—and any such artists really—don’t necessarily have it made, as our fantasies tell us. They’re subject to the same tight restrictions and imperious whims if they depend upon the old-school bureaucracies and structures.

Now he’s writing a sequel to One Thousand White Women, the genre he’s known for, accepted by US publishers. There’s no doubt I’m wildly anticipating its publication. And I’m quite sure it will be a commercial success.

However, the unconventional part of me automatically made an appearance. I shared that I’d written three books and had chosen to self-publish specifically to avoid all the nonsense traditional publishers try to lay on you. I don’t have the time or energy to deal with it. Those who have found my books receive them quite well. **

I also mentioned that it’s the same with most art galleries. To accept an artist’s work, they want to make sure you’re consistent, no matter your talent level. Consistent in this definition means same general subject matter and media, same slotting as above. I’m fortunate to have found two galleries who are happy to show my work, no matter how much I experiment. And I do. I’m not a production line.

All aspects of my work—mentoring, spiritual travel programs, writing or art—appeal to a particular small niche, not the mainstream. And I’ve got much gratitude to those who engage with any of it. It means we’re part of the same tribe.

I often listen to Krista Tippett’s On Being interviews when I’m painting. I find them inspiring, and they sometimes inform the piece I’m working on in the moment. Right on the heels of the conversation I relate above, I listened to her interview with Seth Godin on The Art of Noticing, and Then Creating. No coincidence. Here are some relevant take-aways … ***

  • The assembly line is going away. The things that used to make you feel safe are now risky.
  • Putting something new into the world? The industrial order doesn’t want us to do that.
  • Change comes from the margins.
  • When you do something out of the box, you’re not going to be picked by the old regime.
  • Bottom-up change is the future, not top down.
  • One person can make a difference. You matter.
  • Find people who agree with you and lead them to greater depth.
  • You’re an echo of your art if you’re not making new art.
  • Do it as the gods would do it: with intent, no holding back.
Mystery School in process on the easel.

Mystery School currently in process on the easel.

This is the time of year—as we’re on the threshold of the next one—when I remind myself of these truths by viewing Sean Connery’s rendition of Ithaca by C.P. Cavafy, featured in this blog before.

It reinforces my intent.

 Engage your passion. Fine tune. Put it out there.

 

 ***

 *My conversation with Jim Fergus was relayed here with his complete permission. This is the review for The Memory of Love I uploaded to Amazon and originally sent to Jim with my first email:

Truly, Jim Fergus is one of my favorite novelists having also read  ONE THOUSAND WHITE WOMEN and THE WILD GIRL. This book is indeed a departure but at least equal to the others. I was personally touched by Chrysis’ striving against convention and evolution as an artist, and Bogey was portrayed as though the writer had lived inside those very emotions. The foreword shared why a man could write this way about love, and only at the end did I realize the characters had actually lived. I’d been waiting a long time since THE WILD GIRL for Jim Fergus’ next novel. I’m very glad he’s writing again. Now I’m looking forward to MARIE-BLANCHE.

 **To view my books and readers’ reviews on Amazon, go here. To view artwork online, go here.

***I recommend listening to the unedited versions of On Being interviews with Krista Tippett. They’re much longer but without the fine polish that editing brings. They’re real.

Categories: Arts, Book Review, Creativity Strategies, Interview, The Writing Life | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Music Review – Standing on Sacred Ground

MarshallAlbum-2

Listening to singer-guitarist Kathy Marshall’s latest release, I wanted to curl up in front of a fire with a cup of tea, close my eyes and let her words and music wash over me. I became nostalgic for those traditional folk ballads from times past…and yet found them in the songs contained in Standing on Sacred Ground.

The lyrics are deeply personal and introspective, reflecting values of the musician: respect for Mother Earth, an urging to slow down and find truth within yourself, gratitude for blackberries. She tells stories about elements of life that are familiar to most of us and led me to reflect on my own life where there may be a similar thread of love or loss, and largely…celebration of what is. The guitar and other instruments are a beautiful accompaniment to stories she shares.

From Secrets to Life: Met a grey-haired woman laughing in her rocking chair. ‘Come sit down beside me,’ she crooned, ‘I got secrets to share.’

I particularly love this line from Dreamcatcher: …I dream a song and I sing a dream. Nothing there is impossible to me…

All lyrics and music written by Kathy Marshall. CD available to purchase or download via her website and CD Baby where you may also listen to individual songs.

 

Categories: Gratitude, Healing, Music Review | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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