Dominique Mazeaud: 2010 AHN Awardee

"My calling is to search for the spiritual in art. Ceremonial art is a means to access the dimension of oneness between worlds as well as to reach a place of interconnectedness between all beings." - Dominique Mazeaud

Arts & Healing Network is delighted to present one of the 2010 AHN Awards to Dominique Mazeaud - ceremonialist, cultural peacemaker, and "heartist." Dominique weaves together these three roles in artworks and performances such as "The Great Cleansing of the Rio Grand" in which she walked the river monthly doing literal and symbolic cleaning over 7 years. As she describes, "My performances are pilgrimages."

To learn more about Dominique's powerful work, please visit her web site at

Below is an interview by Arts & Healing Network Director Mary Daniel Hobson with Dominique Mazeaud from October 2010.

Mary Daniel: Do you believe art can be a catalyst for healing?

Dominique: Art is the voice of the heart. Art brings us to a place of inspiration, of greater understanding and compassion -- I'd even say of love and unity through beauty. Art is the treasure chest of humanity. It's not just a matter of looking at art, it's the participation of the individual and community that makes art a catalyst for healing. You have to enter into it. Art heals us from isolation. As we face our own suffering and that of our planet, our hearts break open. There is nothing left to do but to let our hearts speak. In speaking or doing from this peace of heart, we heal and are healed.

Mary Daniel: You have written that “My medium of choice is listening... I dream middle way solutions, but mostly I create space for a deep listening to the heart.” And you describe yourself as a “heartist.” Could you talk a little bit about what it means to be a “heartist”?

Dominique: My work as a “heartist” is about creating a quiet, tender space, a sacred space. In the ritual performances, people create the container within which the ritual is happening by forming a circle around the space. Whatever the ritual involves, spoken words, being present to silence or allowing sounds of nature and life to penetrate that silence, the audience focuses on me --  they listen to my listening, and maybe they'll listen more deeply. In the silent object they can focus on what evokes memories -- pain as well as joy. The listening is internal but also external.

Dreaming “middle way solutions” comes from an older statement when I still did not understand that the main thing I can do is sharing my heart -- to celebrate creation or feel the pain. For heartists of all paths (be it art or life, or life as art), the heart -- a receptive station where body, mind and spirit meet -- is the ultimate guide and feedback. However, there may be something else happening --  synchronicity, which in art circles I enjoy referring to as my best critic. In the words of anthropologist Michael Harner, "Synchronicities are the signals that power is working to produce effects far beyond the normal bounds of probability. In fact, watch for the frequency of positive synchronicities as a kind of a homing beacon analogous to a radio directional signal to indicate that the right procedures and methods are being employed."

Being a heartist is to be concerned with the moment. Being in the moment is not some vague, new-age pronouncement. It is being deeply aware on a micro/personal as well as on a macro/historical level, seeing the patterns that rule us whether we are a family or a country at war. One innate mark of humanness is the ability to do ritual, "a confluence of forces and patterns." In early societies, the word art did not exist; it did not need to. Art, life, and spirit were one. Not only were those societies marking time and space with formal ceremonies, but daily activities were also imbued with ritualistic flavor. Heartists of life and art recognize the sacredness of ordinary activity. Ceremony, whether personal or communal, is grounded in an attitude of intention and intuition.

Mary Daniel: The theme for the 2010 AHN Award is Ceremonial Art – could you please share your thoughts about why ceremonial art is such a powerful medium?

Dominique: My calling is to search for the spiritual in art. Ceremonial art is a means to access the dimension of oneness between worlds as well as to reach a place of interconnectedness between all beings. Ceremony is ancient. It reaches to the past while occurring in the present and yearns for a certain future. I love ceremonial art because it allows a synthesis of art and of the spiritual along with the political. Ceremony is also open to constant exploration of form. “The whole being larger than the sum of its parts” invites collaboration and inclusion of many voices around a theme.

Common ingredients of all ceremonies, whether of art or of life, are intention and attention. With this in mind, every moment can be a mini-ceremony. This feeds the great continuum that art and life really are all about -- a fact which we sadly have forgotten. For example, the main gesture of a home ritual I have done for years takes place right at my kitchen sink where a pitcher is always on guard to save the water I would otherwise waste before getting warm water. It's been spawned by an awareness of my drought-prone New Mexico home. In art, it continues the tradition of many celebrated works of women with pitchers. This private ritual inspired the main gesture of 60 Water Weaving Women, a series of performances about water the first of which was held at the New Mexico Capitol in September 2008. In both home and art performances, the pitcher is central.

Installations for me are ceremonies. As I execute an installation, not only is there the intention of prayer behind the work but also the attention I bring to every gesture. Because the themes I am called to, such as compassion, are much bigger than I am, they go way beyond the personal. Yet, the work always begins with the personal. With One Thousand Arms of Compassion, a work that has been developing concurrently with a half year of deep physical and mental unwellness, I had an experience to which I credit some of my recent healing. Every time I pressed my material (a forked branch or Y) into the wall to form a mandala of a thousand, I added a thought -- a lot of it being deep gratitude to the source of my material. It all congealed into a little poem I read as I introduced my new work along with my new gained health to a group of friends.

Handling the little forked branches I spell Ys
is a true benediction,
it's the blessing of an apparition:
there, under my fingers, is the tree
mother to my Y

Tall. Straight. Strong.
Now swaying. Bending.
Sometimes yielding so much that it breaks
surrendering a part of itself

No thought
No judgement
Pure beingness
Pure peace

Every time I hold one such little bit of wood
I tap into the 'wind of eternity' I call peace

No thought
No judgment
Pure beingness
Pure peace

Mary Daniel: What excites you most about your creative work right now?

Dominique: About six years ago, a profound encounter with a tree opened up a whole new direction for me – new, yet very much in the line of my “doing art for and with the Earth.” As a matter of fact, besides her being a great guide and teacher, I now refer to Earth as a collaborator. She seems to notice my inclinations for a certain material or shape and then proceeds to provide me generously with the said material. For example, in the case of the forked branches I am working with now I don't even have to manipulate them to get to the Y shape. They are always perfect. The said tree, the trunk of which was split into two 'arms' raised toward the sky, echoed in a symbolic way my relating to the universal gesture of prayer.

I can say that what excites me most about my creative work right now is the level of intimacy it has reached along with the level of synchronicity. By carefully noticing so-called coincidences and connections, it's as if some mysterious dimension is 'doing' it for me. Besides installations with Y’s in great centering/ healing mandalas, my current work is devoted to rituals for the river. Again nothing new for me since my first The Great Cleansing of the Rio Grande in 1987-1994, but I am increasingly collaborating and inviting other women to participate. In this work I want to express my gratitude to Bobbe Besold, a wonderful artist and close collaborator on many levels of creation and Elizabeth Wiseman whose theater expertise helped develop some of my ideas.

Mary Daniel: What advice do you have for other artists who are walking this path of art and healing and ceremony?

Dominique: Listen. Pay attention to your own experience and synchronicity. Involve other people. Don't be afraid of coming out of the studio. Life and art are one.  Every moment has a potential ritual. When you do things with intention, then it's ceremony. Repetition is like the movement of a shuttle. To create a tapestry there is the need for many goings back and forth, there is beauty in every gesture, and in every row there is the promise of the finished weaving. Don't be afraid to copy the method. If you go inside and listen to your own heart, your ritual or ceremony will be unique.

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