Magpie Speak: Art + Spirituality

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Art + Spirituality

Back when 2007, when I was transitioning out of the pastorate and into a life of writing, I started Magpie Girl. The catch-phrase then was “distracted by sparkly things.” That’s what it was – a place to catalog all the sparkly things that were catching my eye. Knitting and Theology. Justice and Collage. Craft Projects and Chronic Pain.

My former college roommate said of my new blog, “Oh, we are doing crafts now.” She didn’t mean anything bad by it, but it got my gremlins chatting. Are we “just” doing crafts now? Did doing crafts matter? Did that make me shallow person?

Over time I learned to integrate those things: craft and faith, religion and art, belief systems and glue sticks. My life coach, Jena Strong, helped me realize they were not “either, or” but “both, and.” Art and spirituality became one and the same.

In my recent interview for the Creative Living series at Jamie Ridler Studios, Jamie asked me how I saw the intersection between art and spirituality. I gave her my Magpie Girl answer:

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the first thing we know about God is that God Creates. This creative impulse is the first thing we associate with Divinity and the first words of our Holy Text: “In the beginning God created…” I see our passion to create as a Divine impulse that comes from within us, and extends out of us as a gift to the world.

I’m also influenced by the more earth-based pagan traditions. These traditions honor the creative energy of the feminine divine, giving us stories of goddesses who birth land and sea. Other branches of these ancient traditions pay close attention to the power of the four seasons and their endless creative cycle.

For me, creativity and spirituality are so overlapped they become one in the same.

What about you? Are art and spirituality linked for you? How do you understand that connection? What stories and practices remind you of that? Or how are you playing around the edges to see if there is any interaction between the two? Please tell us. We need you to add to the Giant Pool of Wisdom, now forming at Magpie Girl.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Evelyn May 15, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Oh, I love this. Religion (pootah) left a bad taste in my mouth, but I have never ceased to be spiritually connected… and although I innately understood that there is an element of the divine when out of my energy emerges something creative, I hadn’t quite connected the two. What a relief, as creation is what keeps me from dissolving into the depths of existence with no connection to self… and being connected with self really does feel like a connection to the greater universe of energy.

I believe when I do draw or paint or play with wire, that I am nurturing my spiritual connection. The messages that evolve in my work are gifts of my own growth, perspective, and deeper needs expressed. And I can be observant and listen to the inner beauty expressed through my creativity… and it is essential to my survival, my growth that I continue to express myself.

Goodness… that seems verbose… and I even removed a story from the thoughts above… but THANK YOU!! I am teaching Artist Way Workshops here in Orlando (just recently on my own… very exciting) and am filled up by taking time to connect with myself and encourage my creative self as well as the creatives who attend. I will likely share this with the group next week!

Shawn May 17, 2010 at 4:49 pm

The closer I am to nature, the more spiritual I feel … the more spiritual I feel, the more I create quality, free-flowing ideas. I love letting my mind wander in creation and dreaming up new ideas. That’s about as close to God as I can get. It’s very organic and intimate. I’m a Unitarian Universalist, proudly. I am more an athiest than a believer though I do not know profess to know or have the answers. I’m a seeker — of all things humanity. UU has been a very good home for me and I see lots of other artists there every week.

Elissa May 19, 2010 at 4:06 pm

When I write, I definitely am linking my spiritual world with my creative side. I had no idea I’d do it so literally, meaning by retelling the story of Adam and Eve, in Eve’s voice and three of her daughters’ voices, but there it is. I did. And it changed how I view God, how I view my religious background (I’ve recently “outed” myself from the church as an institution), and how I view the Bible/Torah stories.
Although I was nervous to reimagine such a story (did you know there is an earlier ancient creation account that Adam and Eve were derived from?), it’s created discussion, dialogue, and MORE questions. Who knew? I was looking back on my blog posts, and this was one that I wrote BEFORE the novel came out, displaying a little angst, I suppose:
http://web.me.com/elissaelliott/Elliott/Blog/Entries/2008/10/27_Eve.html
For me, spirituality and art are inextricably linked.

Rachelle May 20, 2010 at 2:18 pm

These are also profound. Would y’all be interested in sharing these thoughts with the wider Magpie audience as guest posts? I’ll email you…!

I’m really excited to watch you all make — and verbalize — these connections. And I’m thrilled to become connected with your work as well.

Rebekah May 20, 2010 at 4:12 pm

I think my answer on the previous week is going to overlap with this one.

As I’ve said before, my two main areas of creative expression are writing and photography.

When I’m behind a camera, especially if I’m out in nature, there is nothing else for me but that moment as I repeatedly focus and re-focus the camera and press the shutter button. I frequently find myself dropping into the oft-described but elusive “flow” state.

As for writing, I use it to make connections, record insights and the non-visual details of life, and to take the time to connect with myself. I also am in the habit of writing letters to the Divine as prayer, as it helps bring clarity when my mind is jumbled.

Recently, I’ve begun combining the two for a weekly blog post series here: http://spiritualsemaphore.wordpress.com/category/friday-photo/ It’s my plan that these be my form of soul food, with a photo and either the story behind it, a poem, or an inspirational quote. :)

Terry Clavelli May 29, 2010 at 3:58 am

Rachelle and friends,
You may already know Creativity by Matthew Fox…but if you don’t, you’ll find these same ideas in his book. I didn’t read it all at once…it has so many profound thoughts that I wanted to sit with them, one at a time.

Louise Morris June 9, 2010 at 10:17 pm

Hi Rachelle
For me, knitting is a spiritual and meditative practice. I knit blankets with a very simple pattern so that I can knit and purl without my mind getting the the way too much. After a while the mind chatter softens and I become restored and replenished.

kazari July 7, 2010 at 10:42 am

For a long time, art and spirituality were boxes i didn’t open. Art was something I didn’t do and spirituality was something i didn’t examine too closely because i suspected my nice simple answers weren’t as nice or simple as i thought.
But life has a habit of forcing the issue. I tend to live with my head, and when my heart is hurting, i needed art to help me figure out why. And it turns out that the answers are hidden away in that spirituality box… somewhere.
I’m still figuring this out. I have no answers. And coming from a determinedly non-religious household, I’m not even sure how to hold that spirituality thing in my hands. But the adventure continues.

Mary-Michael August 16, 2010 at 11:27 am

I think the relationship between art and spirituality is one of lovely co-dependence. I’m not certain you could actually have one without the other…whether conscious or unconscious I think all art is a short cut to the divine. I find the more I deepen my spiritual practice through such things as meditation, yoga, silence and reading spiritual texts my creating/art becomes easier. Although I still struggle with being inspired and presently find myself shuffling through a dry spell. But my spirituality gives me the reassurance (faith) that the inspiration will return, the well from which it originates (i.e. god/universe/krshna/etc) is endless. Great post by the by.

MyLiteraryCoach August 20, 2010 at 8:56 am

Mary-Michael your description of “all art as a short cut to the divine” is really well said, especially your metaphor of the overflowing well (wellspring). If you have been contemplating developing a book in this area, we would all be helped.

Monica August 20, 2010 at 4:37 pm

this is a GREAT perspective on art and spirituality, Rachelle. I would simply add that as a woman I believe the ‘creation gene’ is within us very strongly due to the ability to PRO-create, though I have made a conscious decision to give birth to my artistry than to children…and it would be great for us to look at the word “PRO-CREATE”. It feels like shorthand for “PROactive CREATION” =-)

Wendy Fox September 18, 2010 at 12:09 am

The first time I saw Half Dome (Yosemite National Park, CA) I was in awe and couldn’t speak. I, later, had the opportunity to snorkel in Kauai……and I had to lift my head and laugh out loud at some of the outstanding creatures I saw. Intelligence and creativity are absolutely visible in nature. Simply being present on this planet exposes us to beauty. It seems natural, then, that we would want to reproduce and even create beauty with our own hands. Honor? Worship? Homage? I can’t think of the right word to describe the act of artistic creation for spiritual expression but there must be one out there somewhere.

Jackie September 18, 2010 at 2:03 pm

I believe that art and spirituality are inextricably linked. After I had my 3rd baby (11 years ago yesterday), I experienced post partum depression – so bad I couldn’t get out of bed. I prayed and prayed for help and guidance and what came to me was a strong desire to create something. I had done needlepoint as a little girl and so I found a needlepoint shop and bought a little teapot canvas – I did it and finished it with help from the wonderful woman at the shop. I really believe this helped me get better…from there, it’s been creating non-stop with quilting, mixed media and now jewelry making. The post partum was both the one of the worst and one of the best things that have ever happened to me – I found my creative side and now I feel as though when I create, it is very meaningful and spiritual to me – like I’m appreciating the gifts and blessings given to me!

Lisa Igo October 24, 2010 at 8:33 am

Yes, reading this post put my love of art into perspective. When engrossed in the creative process it is for me like meditation, reiki and connecting spiritually. I miss my weekly studio sessions (been 3 years) and from January my youngest child will be going to nursery for an extra session to allow me some creative time. It’s my New Year resolution to myself to create and play. :)

Louise October 30, 2010 at 2:46 pm

What you say about God as creator is so true when it comes to thinking of our creative drive being part of being made in his image. Unfortunately this has not been reflected in the organised religion I am in. Although it was never explicitly said, I always felt my creative writing to be a waste of time in their eyes and it took me a long time to break out of belieiving that. Now I seek to embrace my creativity as an intrinsic part of the me God created. When I surpress it I am so much less of myself.
Fortunately, as I have said in previous comments, writing poetry that creatively restates biblical stories has freed me from this negativity and allowed me to see writing as a gift. And my poems that are not religious are still spiritual because they express what I feel in my spirit.
In addition I have just discovered painting, including a text in the picture, which again expresses where I am and this too is part of a spiritual journey for me, without a doubt. Check out my first picture and message at http://poetryintheprose.blogspot.com/2010/10/confidence.html
Thanks for these wonderful self-exploratory prompts, Rachelle.

Jennifer November 10, 2010 at 9:56 am

I am such a perfectionist that I have never felt I was an artist or creative – since I can’t create like Van Gogh or Bach or Frank Lloyd Wright or Jane Austen, I must not be a true artist. I’m learning to find peace with my own creative juices – I love color and texture and music and light and paper and capturing moments in photography and journaling and singing and thinking and expressing and connecting and discussing. I’m still playing around the edges. But I value the creative arts, all of them, and feel they have a necessary part in life and in spirituality.

Michelle November 10, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Art and spirituality are inextricably linked for me; when I’m suffering in one arena I’ll be suffering in the other too. Let me tell you, being spiritually blocked AND having writer’s block is no fun! And spirituality inspires my art, nature spirits and deities are some of my favorite things to draw.

Shannon Finley December 15, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Creativity and spirituality – I think you said it best when you said,”the first thing we know about God is that God Creates”, and one of the things created was creative humanity. Part of my spiritual journey is to discover my creativity. Sometimes when I read what I have journaled, or written to my kids, or written in a paper (I am taking an online course on Christian Faith and Life) I shake my head and wonder that I was the one expressing something so well. (Other times it is just junk.) Then I know that I have connected with God and we wrote together.

Roxanne/tinkerbell the bipolar faerie January 30, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Art, artistry, creavitity make me a partner in creation, God’s partner. Art is the purest form of my self, my spirit.

Leah February 18, 2011 at 7:57 am

Yes. I connect with all of this! For me, my creativity and spirituality have always been intricately connected. When I create, especially movement with my body in modern dance, I feel the most myself. I am in tune with my true self, and this is holy. When we are in tune with our true self, we are living our unique purpose, there is only one of us in the whole universe (more of the Creator’s creativity), and our simply ‘being’ is beautiful.

I recently watched an inspiring Ted Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, where she talks about that inspiration/spirit/muse coming and creating with us. We just need to do the work faithfully, and it will come. It is in the ‘deep well’ within us.

Poet and spoken word artist Suheir Hammad sends shivers down my spine with her work. She is fully herself, creating, and some great ‘something’ is creating with her. It is holy, powerful, and beautiful.
Here is a link to a 5 min clip of her’s :
http://www.ted.com/talks/suheir_hammad_poems_of_war_peace_women_power.html

Glad Doggett May 28, 2011 at 7:03 am

What you stated about creativity to Jamie Ridler is exactly what I’ve been trying to articulate for a long time. You said it beautifully.

It seems that our urge to create is the divine expressing itself through us. When we cut ourselves off from creating, there’s a vacuum, a void that longs to be filled. At least that’s my experience.

Thanks for putting into words what I’ve been trying to wrap my head around.

Brian Gerald Murphy July 3, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Yes! Thank you so much for this.

I feel most alive, grounded, sane, whole, productive, effective when I am creating. Creating art, creating web sites, creating with words on the page or words face-to-face, creating anything.

I so easily allow myself to settle for consuming, or worse browsing. Time to get off my ass and get to creating.

maxine July 4, 2011 at 8:07 am

I have to agree that there is a oneness to art and spirituality. If I have to add a spiritual label, I would say strong Buddhist tendencies. I grew up Methodist and when I discovered I was gay (at 29) there were a lot od hypocritical inconsistencies within that paradigm that sent me searching. My dad is Jewish so I studied Judaism for a while. Not quite right. Buddhism is just what makes the most sense and fits the best, though it isn’t quite perfect either.

I think craft (or art) is what balances the scales and completes the picture. I am multi-craftual, but knitting will always be number one. Right now, painting (as a meditative process, I am not a painter…) is number two. When I am up with the dog at 5 am and the house is silent, there is about a half hour of mindful knnitting as preparation for my yoga practice, and then I am ready to face the day and can be content.

If you haven’t already read Then Knitting Sutra by Susan Gordon Lydon, please…please…please, order it immediately. I would say consult your library, but after getting it from the library, I had to have it. It is by far the best book on the intersection of craft and spirituality I have read, and reread, and reread.

Andi Johnson August 29, 2011 at 7:04 am

I developed a church service (which was cancelled due to Irene yesterday) on the Heart & Soul of Knitting. I used a resource called The Knitting Way (found on Skylight Paths Publishing) that connects everything we do in knitting to life. In my mind, all crafts are spiritual in nature. The connections between generations, friends, acquaintances, nature, and real world all exist. Keep it up, MagpieGirl!

Tanja October 18, 2011 at 3:25 am

To be honest, religion and art have *never* been connected in my own mind. I mean I’ve looked at religious artwork, and been able to see the beauty in it, but I haven’t made the connection on a gut level.

Spirituality and art connect much more intuitively in my mind. I’m incredibly verbal rather than visual, though, so when I’ve produced “spiritual art”, it’s tended to be in the form of poetry, or occasionally chant/song. I think I’d like to try to develop my visual creativity a little – and if I could marry it with my spirituality… that feels like it would be incredibly powerful!

melanie November 1, 2011 at 12:59 am

oh, most definitely are art and spirituality connected!

…My definition of art is very broad – The earth is a canvas. Go create.
I love to create. I see my whole life as a canvas, and I’m always seeing things I want to make. …

That’s from my bio I use on places that need a profile, or an artists bio. To me, this earth is the mothers canvas, and we all get to share it. It’s magical and wonderful.

…I want you to feel what I feel, see what I see, and to share the joy I felt as I created it, my joy as I woke up and looked out at the world….