Do you have a special corner of your house that you visit regularly for inspiration, meditation, prayer, reflection...or perhaps just for a moment of joy? If you do, then perhaps you already have a Personal Altar. By dictionary definition, altars are usually associated with religious rituals of some sort, but many of us have little shrines or areas of our homes or gardens that we turn to when we wish to step away from everyday routines and connect with whatever lifts us spiritually.
Currently at Featherstone Center for the Arts on Martha's Vineyard, the personal altars of 30 local artists are on display and collectively offer one of the most fascinating show I've seen in a long time. The pieces are as varied and original as their creators and illustrate the many ways in which we seek divine inspiration. One of my favorite pieces was this "Ode to Louisiana" by Suesan Stovell: I also really loved Elizabeth Tuett's "Inspirational Altar" with quotes by Buddha and Jung: This lovely niche of serenity titled "Offerings" was assembled by creative stylist Patrice Dunfro: "Tree of Life" was painted by ceramic artist and painter Washington Ledesma: -who also submitted the beautifully executed "Comeback": Valentine Estabrook and Kanta Lipsky exhibited three works made with twigs, "Lady of Guatalupe", "Tara" and "Egypt Woman":
The variety of materials used and the vast array of objects collected in the different alters of personal expression is astounding. Many (like the twigs-based art above) were wall pieces, like Enid McEvoy's moving quilt, "Remember Me: and Marshall Pratt's whimsical, but thought-provoking "I'm With Stupid": Opening night was extremely well-attended- either a testament to the public's curiosity, or to their desire for inspiration. -There was certainly plenty of both to be had at this extraordinary exhibit.
One of the most popular pieces was the interactive "Prayer Wheel" by Paulette Hayes and Nick Mosey, which required the viewer's touch to be fully appreciated:
I entered two pieces, "Journey"
-an altered antique print tray, which I blogged about in detail last week. This mixed media artwork in which I used paint, ink and a myriad of scrapbooking and papercrafting techniques was intended as a source of inspiration for balance and creativity. There is no better reminder of what direction one should take in life than a little reflection on where one has been.
For many, many years, I have surrounded myself with numerous shrines that I scatter throughout my house. I create tableaux, dioramas and 3-dimensional displays using found objects that are centered around dolls. The joy I derive from my little shrines is unequaled by anything else. Mostly they are a nod to the joys of childhood fantasy and to the things in life I love most. Some of my friends say that they are goddesses that I turn to for inspiration, others chuckle at the notion that my artwork is just an adult excuse to play, but everyone who knows me well agrees that my little personal altars fill me with joy. Here is my Alice in Wonderland-themed "We Thought You'd Never Arrive": Many of the personal altars on display at Featherstone's main gallery are more traditional in nature. Melissa Breeze's "Autorretrato", for instance- ...and Marsha Winsryg's beautiful "Durgha". -As well as "Light Unto Me" by Genevieve Jacobs...
The personal altars of several artists were much more than excersises in self-expression. Many were extremely personal in nature. Marsha Winsryg shared her "Altar for my Mother" - Photographer Kathy Rose included one of her greatest treasures, Mahatma Ghandhi's actual headrest, in her piece -shown here being viewed by visitor Noreen Baker: -And perhaps most touching of all, in his gorgeous sculpture, which he dedicated to his recently deceased wife, James Masek, actually nestled Maggie's ashes into the base of the petals in a ceramic crock under the candle: "The Art of the Personal Altar" is being shown daily through November 2, 2011 from 12-4pm. I do encourage everyone to see it, and if you can't attend, I hope you'll consider creating your own little personal altar. Look for a corner, tabletop, cabinet, or wall in your home where you glance often and turn it into a daily source of peace, joy, or serenity for yourself.
Thank you for taking this inspirational journey with me.