I didn’t expect to be directing my professor and fellow cohorts to Practically Twisted in order to view my version of our final assignment. But the truth is the file was too for Angel. And that was after I’d removed some of the images! So here I am, posting my spiritual autobiography on WordPress for the whole world to see. No matter. It was a challenging and thought provoking project. And I can’t wait to see yours.
Spiritual Autobiography: A Collection of Reliquaries
I’ve always been fascinated by reliquaries. From Oliver Plunkett’s head to Saint Valentine’s heart or threads from the Shroud of Turin reliquaries inspire mystery, hope and story. Religious reliquaries are potent objects. Viewing the remains of a seer or saint housed in ornate, gold, gilt and jeweled boxes fosters deeper faith and humility. Reliquaries are spiritual magic.
I believe we can each build our own reliquaries. These objects and images mark the turning of a page. They mark a spiritual death and subsequent rebirth. William Bridges might suggest that they occupy the Neutral Ground and their creation is a necessary part of transformation. We instinctively collect and hold sacred a bird’s feather found at the funeral of a friend, a dried rose bud from a former lover or even a Chinese fortune we want so much to believe. In their own way, They are all reliquaries.
I knew it would be difficult to put into words the spiritual path I have walked. I knew my journey had to be described with images and objects. Choosing a visual medium allowed me to reinterpret the form and tradition of the reliquary. It allowed me to infuse and inform my story with color, texture and shape. As a child I pushed myself toward a religious practice. I wanted to be the good girl. Later I leaned into spirituality as a balm and prayed it wasn’t a placebo. But the journey was difficult. I didn’t have the strength to hold my practice and abandoned all belief. Walking through life surrounded by the fog of nonchalance did not serve me. I was aware of something missing, a lack of authenticity. I felt empty. But fogs clear. Even mine. I felt something in me shift about fifteen years ago. I’ve been looking and feeling and exploring ever since.
At first, when my first, new steps were still very tentative, I looked for labels. I looked for words that might describe the walk I am on. But how I’m moving through life these days – how my body, my heart and my soul are charging down this new road – it has no name. No label.
In this work I’ve tried to create reliquaries that mark an event on this journey. The details are unimportant. What is mourned or celebrated in each piece is a single moment of awareness. They each mark a change in trajectory. A shift in perspective.
There are six in all: Ashes from a Lost Heart, Suppose a Wound is Received, I Don’t Remember That at All, The Heart is a Fragile Vessel, Sweets and Snacks and Truth. A brief description of the work and a short paragraph describing where I was on my journey accompanies the images.
Ashes from a Lost Heart,2.5 x 3.5 inches, plastic box, gold leaf, oil pastel, text,silicon grid, ash and twine.
Sometimes I don’t know what happened to me. I don’t understand how I came to be lost. How my heart came to be so bound. This first reliquary represents the bound heart. My journey begins with my futile attempts to break down the barricade around my heart. Sometimes events liberate our hearts.
Sometimes they add another brick to the wall around it.
Suppose a Wound is Received, What Happens?, 3.5 x 7 x 3 inches, found box, vintage text & images, wax and found object
This is my wound. I lived in an unstable and abusive environment filled with secrets and lies, inappropriate sexual relationships and violence. This reliquary is a box. Because that is what we do sometimes. We put our wounds in a box and close the lid.
We hope that if we keep them tucked away everything will be all right. We become the Good Girl and look to God for all our wishes to come true.
I Don’t Remember That at All, 5.75 x 5.75 x 3 inches, found box, compass, plastic optical dome, distressed mirror,text.
I struggled to find my way in the world. I moved from Pennsylvania to a year-long marriage in Nebraska to the sunshine of California and then to Ireland. During that time I floated between Catholic Mass, Christian prayer vigils, the one-ness of Bahaullah, the silence of the Quakers and the nothingness of atheism. I was looking for direction. A place to be not only in the world, but a place to be in my heart.
The Heart is a Fragile Vessel 6 x 8 x 2 inches, tin box,vintage text,distressed plexiglas, jujube candies, jaw breaker candies, acrylic paint, bubble wrap.
There is a point where I realized I had to treat my heart with more kindness. More love. Because the heart is fragile. I backed away from my flirting with various faiths and settled into a period of practicing yoga and quiet contemplation with no particular direction or outcome in mind.
Sweets and Snacks wire coat hanger, plastic tubes, twine, twigs, plastic bag, found objects, frictionless beads
This penultimate reliquary shows the primary faiths and philosophies I have explored. The last, unlabeled tube explains where I am now: at a place that requires no name and with the tentative understanding that maybe it really is all right to pick and choose. Maybe our spiritual journey is a like a buffet. Maybe it really is all right to choose a mixed bag of heart and meaning, even if our choices have no rhyme or reason. There is, after all, no one truth. There are many truths.
Truth, 2.5 x 3.5 inches, plastic box, gold leaf, acrylic paint, text (Rumi)
And so, well into the second half of my life, my heart has finally taken flight.
Accepting of the wounds received so long ago and no longer constrained by the rules of religion I feel free to find my truth where I see it.
The Rumi verse in this piece is one of my favorites and seems an appropriate closure.
“You are, in truth, the soul of the soul of the soul.”