Ceremonial Art & Ritual
This issue includes two interviews: one with Vijali Hamilton, founder of the World Wheel Project, and the other with Dominique Mazeaud, a self-described “ceremonialist, peacemaker, and heartist.” Both of these artists were recipients of the annual Arts & Healing Network Award. I also spotlight three books about using the art of ritual to create greater meaning in your life.
There is also a wonderful new podcast with Sam Bower and Anne Veh from greenmusuem.org. To honor the new year of 2011, greenmuseum has created a beautiful calendar of environmental artwork - see more details below.
I'm wishing you a new year full of joy, creativity, and possibility,
~ Mary Daniel Hobson, Director of the Arts & Healing Network
"Healing art ceremonies have the power of healing on a very deep level because they bring communities together and form community where none existed before. In a resonant community, powerful healing is possible." ~ Vijali Hamilton
Vijali Hamilton is a visionary sculptor, poet, musician, performance artist, and author. She is also the originator of The World Wheel: Global Peace Through the Arts Project, which combines sacred sculptures, community ritual-based theater, and wisdom centers. This project has spanned more than 20 years and taken place in over 18 locations around the globe - from Japan to India to the United States - addressing the local indigenous problems, identifying aspirations, and helping to preserve the needs of the culture of each population.
Below is an interview by Arts & Healing Network Director, Mary Daniel Hobson with Vijali Hamilton from October 2010, when she received the 2010 Arts & Healing Network Award:
Mary Daniel Hobson: Vijali, you have traveled the globe for many years now working in such diverse communities, and using art in such a powerful way to create connection and healing. What have you learned in your journey about the healing power of art?
Vijali Hamilton: I have experienced art as a catalyst for healing over and over on my World Wheel Project, now in 18 countries. I have seen that art goes through political, religious and cultural barriers. It connects people and situations, bridging understanding. This understanding is a healing of prejudice and racism. This understanding brings peace through global awareness, forming a global community.
Mary Daniel: The World Wheel Project has such a far-reaching, global and big vision. What inspired you to start it?
Vijali: The motivation for the World Wheel Project came from an experience in the mid-1970’s when my perception of the world shifted, and the unity of life stood revealed. The next few years were a search for a way to live within this web that connects all life. Specific ideas for the World Wheel Project came to me in a dream. I saw myself carving sculptures out of the living rock and involving people from many cultures in a process of ritual in a giant circle around the world. The circle itself represented Unity, in the sense that each spoke of the wheel has a quality that is unique and distinct from every other spoke of the wheel, and yet it is from these differences that harmony arises and from these differences that the whole is created.
Throughout the World Wheel experience, I ask each person I meet three questions:
- What is our essence?
- What is our sickness, our imbalance - personally, communally and globally?
- What can heal this sickness? What can bring us into balance?
Their responses to these questions form the ritual performance. Each earth sculpture serves as the performance space and is left as a gift and permanent installation to be used by the community, continuing to connect them to the concept of Unity within the World Wheel.
Mary Daniel: Please share your thoughts on ceremonial art – why is it such a powerful medium for change and transformation?
Vijali: Using art as ceremony gives us a new form of spirituality. Many of us don’t respond to the traditional church format, but still long for a way of communion with spirit. Art ceremonies allow people from any ethnic or religious or non-religious background to gather together with the same intent creating a universal bond. Also many of us don’t find the mainstream medical professions supporting our health needs. Healing art ceremonies have the power of healing on a very deep level because they bring communities together and form community where none existed before. In a resonant community, powerful healing is possible.
Mary Daniel: What advice do you have for other artists who are walking this path of art and healing?
Vijali: My advice is for artists to use their art to first heal themselves, and then to address the needs of others and our planet through whatever medium or skill they have. Be confident in the knowledge that art is effective and creates change and healing, and step forward with your own dreams.
To learn more about Vijali's outstanding work, please visit her web site at www.worldwheel.org.
“Ritual and pilgrimages reflect the spiritual in art. Private prayers... public rituals express love for the world.” ~ Dominique Mazeaud
Dominique Mazeaud is a "ceremonialist," cultural peacemaker, and "heartist." She weaves together these three roles in artworks and performances, such as The Great Cleansing of the Rio Grande, in which she walked the Rio Grande River monthly, doing literal and symbolic cleaning over a period of seven years. As she describes, "My performances are pilgrimages."
Below is an interview by Arts & Healing Network Director, Mary Daniel Hobson with Dominique Mazeaud, from October 2010, when she received the 2010 Arts & Healing Network Award:
Mary Daniel Hobson: Do you believe art can be a catalyst for healing?
Dominique Mazeaud: 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." You also describe yourself as a "heartist." Could you talk a little bit about what that means?
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 provider of feedback. 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.
Mary Daniel: 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 USA 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 in September 2008.
Mary Daniel: What excites you most about your creative work right now?
Dominique: I can say that what excites me most about my creative work right now is the level of intimacy it has reached, along with a 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 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.
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.
To learn more about Dominique’s work, please visit www.earthheartist.com.
On the Art of Ritual
These three books are valuable guides for weaving ritual and ceremony into everyday life:
- Rituals for Life’s Milestones by Sandra Hobson
This book contains 15 rituals that have grown out of Sandra Hobson’s study of the wisdom practices of shamans and indigenous cultures around the world. They offer simple, yet deeply meaningful ways to deepen key life experiences such as birthing a baby, getting married, celebrating a birthday, moving house, and more. Elegantly designed by Charles Hobson, this book has been published in a limited edition of 500, and each book features an actual stone adhered to the cover. Sandra Hobson was interviewed about the healing art of ritual for the Arts & Healing Podcast in January 2010 – click here to listen to her podcast online, or click here to download it via iTunes.
- Altars & Icons: Sacred Spaces in Everyday Life by Jean McMann
This book demonstrates how arranging objects of private symbolism can create and enhance meaning in one’s life. Jean McMann showcases over 40 individual, personal shrines or altars created for diverse purposes from honoring the death of a loved one to empowering one’s creative journey. This book offers such a rich array of examples that it makes creating a shrine or altar accessible and appealing. As Jean says in her introduction, "To make a shrine, no matter how simple, is to make art – not for profit, but a gift… These things represent our triumphs, our epiphanies, our tragic losses; we cherish them, display them, and endow them with magic."
- Real Life Ritual by Karyl Huntley
As Rev. Karyl Huntley describes in the introduction, this book is "for those of you who wish to deepen your experience of ritual and to enhance your relationship to the sacred, to the seasons, and to life passages, and to each other." Karyl offers a very thorough and detailed look at the elements of ritual and how to apply them to celebrating the seasons of the year, life transitions and archetypal experiences. The book is packed with instructions for specific rituals - including scripts of what to say, lists of materials needed and guidelines for how meaning can be best generated by each ritual.
ARTS & HEALING PODCAST:
Sam Bower & Anne Veh of greenmuseum.org
Since 2001, greenmuseum.org has been helping people create, present and appreciate art that heals our relationship with the natural world. This online museum offers a wealth of information about artists who are doing exciting and innovative work that directly speaks to the environmental issues of our time. In this podcast, Arts & Healing Network Director Mary Daniel Hobson interviews Sam Bower & Anne Veh, core team members of greenmuseum.org, about the environmental art movement, "giftivism," generosity and advice for artists wanting to engage the natural world. Recently, greenmuseum.org has begun pioneering a new approach to sustainability as an organization by adopting a gift economy model, and so their entire organization is now run by volunteers.
Click here to listen online.
Or listen and subscribe via Listen to more Podcasts on the AHN Podcast page.
Greenmuseum has also produced a beautiful calendar for 2011:
This calendar includes 15 examples of environmental art from around the world. For example, the cover features an underwater sculpture garden by Jason deCaires Taylor that helps support ocean reef sustainability. The artwork in this wonderful calendar reveals a sampling of some of the latest developments in environmental art to stimulate the imagination and promote the role of art in the creation of a more sustainable world culture. To learn more about the calendar and order a copy, please click here.
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