Again and again, I feel compelled to paint windows ... What do they mean?
As artists, we strive to get better and better at listening... call it inspiration, the creative voice.... it has been described in so many ways because it is bigger than words. I deeply believe that our truest and best work comes not from us but through us and it comes from the Source of all Creation.
Often we make art as an answer to a deep need we have to calm the turbulence inside. The act of creation can stir feelings that are buried so deep we don't even know they exist and it can be painful and chaotic. It can hold us in a trance, but it is powerful medicine and the process ends with our subconscious more ordered.
I recently found an echo in Sharyn McCrumb's essay, Keepers of the Legends, in which she discusses the theme of the power of borders between things. McCrumb points out that this "liminality... was part of a world view held by the ancestors of the mountain people for thousands of years... the border concept is central to their world view..." In The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter, Nora Bonesteel recalls that when she was a girl...
"a few of the old women claimed that Balm of Gilead ought to be harvested at dawn or at dusk, but these days she dispensed with that part of the ritual. Early mornings and evenings were colder than mid-day, and she was too old to brave a chill for the sake of rough magic. She understood the logic behind the stricture, though. There was a power in the borders of things: in the twilight hours that separated day from night; in rivers that divided lands; in the caves and wells that lay suspended between the earth and the underworld.... the mountains themselves were borders"
Deep loss or trauma forces us into this liminal state... this state of being betwixt and between. What was once a familiar world is just upside down, we are disoriented, and we are set apart until we find a way to integrate this upheaval and find a new order in our world. This can take years.
The most powerful creation happens when we access this liminal state. (And grief is not the only one way to get there.) We get a glimpse of what lies beyond the world we see and draw from that world the language that speaks to our truest selves.
The windows represent that border between what we see in here and now and the vast expanse beyond. We are spiritual beings in a physical world. Maybe these are windows to our truest selves.
Many of us have experienced profound loss since the pandemic hit. Loss of jobs, businesses, loved ones, and loss of the routine and social contact that are familiar and comforting. I hope you can find some inspiration in this state of being betwixt and between.