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Center for Action and Contemplation
Art and Contemplation
Art and Contemplation

A Sacred Conversation

Thursday, April 18, 2024

To make art is to make love with the sacred. —Mirabai Starr, Wild Mercy 

Mirabai Starr considers the leap of faith required to accept the invitation to creativity:   

A miraculous event unfolds when we throw the lead of our personal story into the transformative flames of creativity. Our hardship is transmuted into something golden. With that gold we heal ourselves and redeem the world. As with any spiritual practice, this creative alchemy requires a leap of faith. When we show up to make art, we need to first get still enough to hear what wants to be expressed through us, and then we need to step out of the way and let it. We must be willing to abide in a space of not knowing before we can settle into knowing. Such a space is sacred. It is liminal, and it’s numinous. It is frightening and enlivening. It demands no less than everything, and it gives back tenfold….  The thing is to allow ourselves to become a vessel for a work of art to come through and allow that work to guide our hands. Once we do, we are assenting to a sacred adventure. We are saying yes to the transcendent and embodied presence of the holy. [1]  

Artist Scott Avett describes the sacred conversation that takes place in his studio:   

Painting is like living, though. An idea is born, an invitation accepted, and a devotion sustained in a mysterious gift of joy and suffering, from its inception to its end. It is in the deepest and darkest moments of this mystery that I may feel the heaviest of doubts, but I long to create faithfully. To create faithfully, I am asked to follow an idea into darkness, not knowing where it will go or what may come of me. To enter into this mysterious exchange is faith itself….  

Here in the studio, the directions I can go are endless. The ocean of images and sounds is bottomless. The list of tools to make a single mark is infinite. All of this to say one thing, “I am.” I have created many forgettable works under different proclamations: “I will,” “I want,” “I can,” “I should,” and “I need to” are a few that come to mind. These are the echoes of a world obsessed with “doing it right.” I jump in and try my hand at this rightness, but I cease to exist in these moments. I disappear into aspiration and become a stranger to myself and God. In a word, I leave. When I return, however, I arrive in the present. I catch a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven. I am actually invited to do this at every moment, but I slip away again and again. I hide from God, behind my proclamations, until I consent once again, and all these claims fade into the eternal “I am.” It is the “I am a child of God” “I am.” Everything I do hinges on this very truth. [2]  

[1] Mirabai Starr, Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics (Boulder, CO: Sounds True, 2019), 159, 161.    

[2] Scott Avett, “Creating Faithfully,” Oneing 12, no. 1, Art and Spirituality (Spring 2024): 72, 73. Available in print and PDF download.  

Image credit: Benjamin Yazza, Untitled (detail), New Mexico, 2023, photo, used with permission. Click here to enlarge image. What draws us when we gaze on an image? Here we see movement, flow, and artistry in natural wood.

Story from Our Community:  

I read today’s Daily Meditation while waiting for a medical appointment in my car. I thought I’d experiment with seeing the world in a new way. In my rearview mirror, I saw the shadow of waving tree branches on a tree trunk. It looked like a big puffy beard and an unkempt mass of hair blowing around an otherwise bald head. God made me laugh with the artwork composed by the sun, the breeze, and two trees. —Mary P.  

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