Once Upon A Time – A little tale about the Artist known as Shiloh Sophia

Our Lady of the Red Thread
According to thy Wisdom
Open the doors that need to open.
Close the doors that need to close.
Mend that which needs mending.
And let loose what needs letting loose.
Show us the pathway through the tangle.
And lead us not to where we need not go.
Remind us to keep opening our hearts.
And to keep them open during hard times.
Make faith to shine like a light in our minds.
And keep us from stumbling, too long, in darkness.
Oh Blessed Lady
Call us towards the purpose for which we were born.
And let us not shut our ears to the radiant calling.
Cause us to long for that which is uniquely ours to do.
And let our divine purpose not pass us by.
Lead us, Precious Lady.
And May Love Be At The Center of All Choices

Amen

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Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time in the magical land known as California, a girlchild was born to a Poet.

There were four girlchildren in the Creative family, and one boychild, and each of them was destined to become a teacher in one way or another. This legend is about one of the daughters of this matriarchal lineage of the Creative family.

She was born forty years ago in the sign of Gemini, when the sun and moon were in the sky at the same time. And as she grew, she played in the five creative studios of the Poet, the Pattern Maker, the Potter, the Painter and the Photographer.

Each gave her different powerful tools to play with: pen, poem, perspective, needle and thread, swatches of fabric, balls of clay, camera, microphone, little jars of jewels and glitter and, of course, the paintbrush. Her years and studies were sustained by steaming cups of hot tea and hot broth to cure any ailment and to keep the girlchild from being “too normal.”

Creativity was strongly encouraged, and between you and me, encouraged at all costs. For Creativity was the greatest treasure of the Creative family. The girlchild was often sent to her room to write poetry instead of wash the dishes. Taught to chop wood with intention, to mold clay into small vessels of meaning.

Now, if you could have looked into the heart of this girlchild you would have seen an always bright beacon – her inspiration for everything: a fervent prayer to end isolation among women.

If you had asked the Matriarchs of the Creative family they would have shook their heads and said she came with that prayer already in place. And though the girlchild, now becoming a young women, did not know HOW; how her paintings and her musings would end up accomplishing community and connection, whenever she visited the five studios, kneading clay and mixing paint, she wove the thought into her work: I pray for end of violence against women and children and all beings.

Times were not always easy for the little artist growing up in a family of Creatives. Creatives are very busy in different kinds of ways, like staying up all night to create the next show or next piece of work. The other siblings were already out of the home and the little artist often found herself alone to dream and play amongst the fabrics and red threads. While she practiced all of the arts available to her, the one she finally choose was the paintbrush. Or as she may tell you, it chose her. She wielded her paintbrush all through elementary and high school and used it to define and defend herself.
Being from a line of creatives, gypsies, rebels and revolutionaries, she was often an outcast, not to be mistaken for underdog.

Her childhood, like most, was filled with drama and decisions little people should not have to make, but it seems, she turned out all right after all – thanks to the women who made sure, that no matter what happened, she knew the truth.
It was her choice how to think about her life and her responsibility to make up her own story around it. And so she did.

When she was old enough she even ventured out to one of those big city college schools to learn how to use a paintbrush proper-like. In that journey she tried on the role of the corporate gig, selling computer training and got experience filling classrooms with students, which though tedious at the time sure would come in handy later. After a while at that big city school she realized anew that the place to learn was at the hearth of her own family. Truth be told, the realization came hand in hand with the terrible (oh so terrifying) thought that there was nothing left to paint. (Sometimes that happens in institutions of higher learning and lower meaning.) And so, she returned to the mountain and under the stars and moon and in the company of family, her ideas began to return to her one glistening ream a time.

On the mountain, she awakened to her own unique voice, she woke up to what she was to create with her life. But there was a condition placed upon her calling. A call to service.

And…The Blessed Mother told her that she must one day share what was given her – freely with others and she would know when that time came. On the mountain, the Artist met and fell madly in love with a Wooded Elf who would walk side by side with her for many a moon and sometimes put her paintbrush back in her hand should she mistakenly set it down for too many days at a time. He would play his guitar and sing and she would paint and weave prayers. But the story is getting ahead of itself again.

One year after moving to the mountain, the Artist had her first art show and sold everything. She had paintings with mamas and babies and mermaids and wings and many roses of course. She had altar bowls with beads and stories to go with all of it. This was only possible because the Painter Mother and the Poet Mother made her do it, but sometimes, we need to be told what to do or we mightn’t do it and we might be tempted to think we don’t have something to say…(a plague of our modern day times).

And so that is how it all started. When the time came for her to begin sharing her gifts with others, she began with teaching painting to little girls and grown up women, and then moved onto writing, then onto book making and tribe gathering by calling the cosmic cowgirls from the ends of the earth to the campfire of the sacred heart of creativity. All the while developing her art and teaching others, as she was called to do by her Blessed Mother, and her Son.

At about year four of their joining, the Artist and the Wooded Elf quit their day jobs and opened the doors to the sanctuary of art to share the magic with the public. The demand for the Artist’s work grew and more and more people came in need of what it was the paintings offered. The paintings, she witnessed, were alchemical. She found that with her paintbrush she could take the pain of someone’s loss and make it into healing. She would take war and make an image of peace. In this way she brought image medicine to a world where representations of women were in much need of mending.

All of that time, the Artist continued to play “school” and taught thousands of women what had been given to her by all of her Creative Mothers – she even founded a Capital S School and joined with other women teachers. (She is in fact, still teaching there, and right now she has a class with a mother and daughter and so concludes this tale….)

And now we draw close to the present time, when, after many long good fairytale years, the Wooded Elf went back to the forest and the Artist remained in the sanctuary of arts on main streets of busy villages. They were so sad to part after so many a magical days, and though some shake their heads, both knew they were called to do their own work in a new way.

And the Artist continued with her gallery life, until one day, she stumbled over one of those miracle thoughts while musing around in the landscape of her soul. “There are other things I would like to do – and I have been so long at this easel in this public place. I think it is time to go into the studio and pick up my pen, and my brush, to create the legend of my life so far and what my future will hold.”

This thought felt good to her soul, and her heart leapt for joy and she clicked her red cowgirl boots together three times. When that happened her community showed up, and knowing how important it is to celebrate transition, suggested, “Why not have a party – and celebrate your life so far?” Creatives do love a party almost as much as creating! And the Artist said: “YES!! Of course! A Rites of Passage from one phase to the next, here in my 40th year.”

Then, as was her custom, she began to expand on the ritual out of her party – saying it would be a symbol, a witness, that there are other important phases in a woman’s life. We celebrate, birth, death, marriage and even divorce, but what about celebrating a woman’s choice to claim her destiny? To transform her life from one sort of life to another? To craft ones story into a legend is a fair combination of glitter, red thread, sweat, tears, chocolate, possibility thinking, time to oneself and a great deal of red paint, and a mac. And some faithful kittens by her side.

There was some murmurs of panic that she intended to stop painting – but she assured them, YES she would continue to paint – but not in public, save for painting with her students. She assured them yes – she would continue to teach and to write. She said she wanted the time to go inside the doors of her own private sanctuary and answer the glistening call she could hear just on the edge of her consciousness growing louder and louder. When one listens to the call, one cannot help but answer YES!

And so it was decided, on the weekend of the Feast Day of Our Lady de Guadalupe in the year 2010 – the Artist known as Shiloh Sophia McCloud would close her public gallery doors and open the doors of her own studio for a time.

And here in this moment is where the Story Ends. And Begins, of course. The Artist would oh so very much love it if you would join her Transition and Rite of Passage Celebration and hold our piece of the red thread of connection to witness a showing of 16 years of paintings from the archives, some of which are being released for collection for the first time. And there are even a few from when she was still a girlchild of four with a prayer in her heart that her mother brought to hang up with the rest. Mother’s are like that, thank goodness. Because then daughters get to feel loved.

And to each of you on your bright journey – what are you being called to?
What remains to be expressed of your legend?
What is the longing in your heart?


SAVE THE DATE! 

A LEGENDARY LIFE – 16 YEAR RETROSPECTIVE
FOR SHILOH SOPHIA MCCLOUD

Electric Rose GALLERY Retrospective: December 1 through 30, 2010 ~ 11-5pm

ONLINE SHILOH SOPHIA GALLERY Retrospective SHOW DATES:
December 11 – January 11, 2011

RECEPTION AT ELECTRIC ROSE GALLERY: December 11, Saturday, 7-9pm
107 Plaza Street, Healdsburg, California Cake and Champagne Reception on the weekend we celebrate the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe

December 11 &12 Awakened Heart – Painting As Sacred Practice Workshop with Shiloh Sophia and Sue Hoya Sellars dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe