I believe art is a spiritual practice
SACRED ART Statement
Shiloh Sophia McCloud
I believe that art is a Spiritual Practice.
I believe that art is a Path of Healing.
I am an artist who creates my work as a Spiritual Practice.
I think of my paintings, which I call Sacred Art, as: Prayers for the world; Offerings of love and hope and rest; Alignment with wellness and beauty; Devotions of gratitude and praise to the Divine; A most delicious outpouring of my soul.
Everything I create is rooted in my desire to ease the suffering of the world. Some of us serve in soup kitchens. Some of us are marching. Some hold the hands of the dying. Some of us teach. Some fight. Some pray. And some of us create art.
Artists touch the suffering through our creations. Some say that art is not as important as other works, and that to paint or sing or write a poem is not of the same worth as planting and digging carrots or volunteering at the (fill in the blank). But I believe that when the artist is committed to art as a form of service and devotion, it is as important as any and every other form of service and devotion.
I am not speaking of all art. I am speaking of Sacred Art. Art specifically and consciously committed to revelation, to inspiring healing and wholeness. Art—like a hearty soup cooked with love, a garden planted and tended with care, a song that raises one’s spirit—art that is intended to lift the soul of humanity. Art in which we FEEL the soul of the work, speaking to us. This, I call Sacred Art.
I began creating Sacred Art over thirteen years ago. I had one of those mountain top experiences in Northern California. My heart had belonged to Jesus since I was a kid, but as a young adult, I felt that I desperately needed to speak with my Mother—my Divine Mother. Although I am not sure if I even knew there was one at that time, my earthly mother recently recalled to me that when I was a child, I had asked if Jesus came from a broken home. She said I wanted to know where his mom was since people always talked about his father, but not his mommie.
Some might call my mountain top encounter an awakening. Surely it was, for it was when the Mother, in the form of Mary, revealed herself to me that I truly became me. I was twenty-two at the time and had been seeking my art form for some years, but with very little fruit. As a result of becoming more fully me, my art also came to life. It is no surprise that the very first art I created that I KNEW was my life work was a Madonna and Child.
My call to create rang out from the heart of the Divine and I answered, YES!! I have not ceased to create since that time. This work is informed by something that is always challenging to put into words. Before I did not know what to create, and for whom, so my work lacked vitality and originality. But with the coming of the Mother Mary—my precious Mary Ma—came information about the suffering of the world. With that, came responsibility. I knew of the suffering and tragedy, but I had been removed from it. It was “out there,” not “in here.” It was as if parts of my heart had been veiled and had suddenly become illuminated. I had access to more of my feeling, my seeing, my loving. I also felt profound agonizing emotional pain that I had never experiences before – compassion was now my overarching experience.
This awakening was one of the most mystical experiences of my life—almost a third “birthing.” First was entering the world, second was connecting with Jesus Christ, and third was this awareness of my Divine Mother, her relationship to her children, and my call to art. I prayed to her about what I was supposed to do about all of this newfound pain. Art was her answer. In order to contribute to the healing of our world I was to create, and teach others to create. I have not stopped since!!!
As soon as I began to paint, the pain transitioned into knowledge, and knowledge transitioned into wisdom, and wisdom informed not only painting, but teaching. Clearly, my gift was to be, not only the product of painting, but the sharing and teaching of the process, and to prosper the work itself.
With the love, encouragement, and support of my life long mentor, Sue Sellars, my beloved husband, Isaiah, and my wise mother, Caron, my career was launched. I had my first art show exactly one and a half years later. I sold everything. Then we moved to Boulder, Colorado and I went to seminary for two years. Through my training there, the depth and breadth of my artwork as my ministry blossomed. I had ongoing shows at local cafes and galleries, and I published my first journal book, Color of Woman, at Kinkos.
Now, fifteen years later, I have consistently made a living through my practice of creating and teaching art. With the continuing help and support of my family, we opened a gallery about twelve years ago. And a second location in November 08.
I began having workshops and events designed to raise awareness around important issues. For example, we worked with Parsa, to connect with women artists in Afghanistan (pre-9-11) to create prayer shawls for women in our community. We educated people regarding these women and the conditions under which they lived and labored. They risked their lives to create those shawls for us. Their work arrived that November following 9-11.
Many of my works reflect family, friendship, lovers, healing, possibility and moments of joy, and many of she who inspires the work—the Madonna, Our Lady, in her many manifestations. She nurses her child, she hears our prayers, she creates miracles, she heals our hearts. My delight in painting her is beyond belief. I experience hours of what can only be called bliss as I paint and
I founded a woman and girl owned publishing company, Cosmic Cowgirls Ink, LLC, that publishes art, books and journals by and for women and girls. We are a member owned and operated company, a for profit with the heart of a non-profit. We have a studio space where headquarters are located and where we offer our courses. Our plans include meeting for the next 100 years, and yes we have revolutionary intentions.
I believe that all of us are creative beings with stories to tell and gifts to share. Art may be a natural talent, coming more easily to some than others, but I now know that art as sacred practice can be learned. Trying to make images look like like something that already exists is what thwarts our efforts. If we invent from the soul, with our focus on the good, what comes out will be true and original. It cannot not be so. I have taught hundreds of women to paint who did not think that they could. But they did! And they loved it! And they learned that art can be a sacred practice and that is it is not technique based, but soul based.
Being in possession of the peace, bliss, and fulfillment that comes with finding one’s life work, I cannot cease asking others these questions: What is YOUR vision? YOUR life work? What did YOU come here to create, birth, reveal, transform, fulfill? Until we have found what it is we REALLY care about, how can we know what to attract, what to focus on, what to manifest? It is with a heart full of love, gratitude and endless prayers, painted and yet to be painted, that I leave you with these questions.
Shiloh Sophia McCloud