During Lent this year, four MAG Artists – Martin Green, Lesley Strutt, Larry Thompson and Holly Dean – took the stage at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Merrickville. Rev. Andrew Wilson had the idea to invite artists to speak about what inspired them, and specifically how they experienced or related to the notion of spirituality. In fact, the topic of Art and Spirituality challenged each of the artists in unexpected ways.
The first to speak was Martin Green, President of MAG. Martin, a painter, pointed out that the notion of spirituality in art is something relatively new. Maurice Tuchman, a former curator of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, recently told the New York Times that “Spiritual” is still a taboo word in the art world. Martin’s introduction provided insight into how personal expression of the spiritual was avoided by most artists because the sacred symbols of spirituality were tightly controlled by the church. Artists only began to develop a ‘vocabulary’ of spiritual expression in the early 1900s.
In the second week, Lesley Strutt took the stage to speak about poetry as a way to connect to the divine. Lesley spoke about how her father had inspired her with his definition of Creativity – the expression of self which is generative. She explored the notion of “self” and how poetry uses metaphor and emotion to tune into that which is without words. She shared poems by Mary Oliver and her own poems to illustrate how the deepest questions about life can lead to inspiration.
Larry Thompson described the meticulous task of letter press printing and explained how he produces books and prints in his Merrickville studio. He shared with the audience an intimate and personal project he has recently undertaken – that of setting in letter press the book of Ecclesiastes, and creating the wood engravings to illustrate it. The project memorializes his mother’s passing and has brought him close to the proclamations of Solomon that human life is transient and uncertain.
Holly Dean, mixed media artist, shared her journey as an artist, from child to adulthood. She described finding her way to Merrickville as instrumental in becoming the artist she is today, and she said that it was very much a question of following her intuition and having faith. Holly shared that her art brings her closer in connection with nature, life, and the people around her.
On the final evening, Rev. Wilson invited the four artists and the audience to address the question “What is spirituality?” The conversation that followed was heartfelt and lovely. Everyone left the room feeling they had experienced something remarkable.