Where I paint hearts, and how….
I live in a rustic cabin in northeast Georgia, in a kind of painting hermitage surrounded by forest. Here I make paintings to explore the awesome unconditional love that infuses the world. Usually each of my painting includes a heart symbol, but sometimes the heart is only implied. More and more, I enjoy making paintings full of question and mystery.
The most recent paintings are acrylic on canvas or archival board, applied with brush or palette knife. Ideas often come in a dream, or unexpectedly in a waking vision, or as a spontaneous inspiration. It’s as if the paintings exist in some other realm, shopping for an artist to make them in this realm.
Once I begin a painting, I’ve accepted the servant role, and we go on together in a dance of I-Thou communication. For me it’s a process of deep listening. I never know what a painting is about until it tells me, and the painting is always in charge. I’m a grateful servant of the paintings, and of a process that’s way bigger than me.
The newest paintings seem to be about aspects of goodness in our hearts, often hidden even from ourselves. I’m finding them thrilling to make and to view. For me, the new paintings are full of mystery and surprise. Consider a title one painting demanded: “The Mercy Locked in Your Heart.” I could never have thought of a title like that on my own.
Nothing in our pasts is wasted…
My first career as a therapist and human relations consultant was based on deep listening. I could not have imagined, back then, the ways in which this prepared me for hearing a painting tell me about what to do to bring it into its full power. Sometimes I sing as I work, sometimes drum or dance, and often I cry because a painting moves me so much.
Grid and curve, order and spontaneity
My past? The trees where I live link me to my whole past, for many trees and I share the same geographic range. For my first 25 years, I lived in Champaign, Illinois and then Chicago. I traveled on streets laid out in grids, in cities surrounded by soybean and corn fields laid out in neat grids. Trees were my treasures.
In my childhood family, my mother was the grid -- my father, the unexpected curves. It’s no surprise that bringing diversity and conflict into creative unity has been a theme in every kind of work I’ve done. A dance of harmony between grid and curve, order and spontaneity -- and perhaps justice and mercy -- still evolves in my paintings.
My other main theme: the way we experience time
Some moments of love and kindness are eternal; I discovered this as I made a memorial board after my mother, Helen Janney Sterrett, died in 1997. We have the choice, moment by moment, to make eternal moments: let’s make more of these.
Sometimes time is deep, rich, thick – delicious. That’s the quality of time that I wish for all of us. My paintings can only reach me — to tell me what they need me to do — when I am open to this kind of “thick” time. I am still learning how to live in this kind of space-time.