Art Elevates

Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror. -Khalil Gibran

My best friend Gigi and I have deep conversations about where we are going as artists. I am an author/illustrator, she a photographer extraordinaire. One day she asked me why I felt compelled to share my art with the world. I was stumped. I had a vague sense that my talent is here to make the world a more beautiful place. But what’s the use of beauty? It has no worth that can be measured or weighed.

The arts are part of the force that keeps violence and despair in check, that keeps hope alive. -Lynne Taylor – Corbett

Then my mind went back to September 11, 2001. After the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, I had the television on constantly. I listened to the media drone on about Homeland Security’s color-coded threat levels while I worked in my studio. I became frightened out of my mind. At my wits end, I walked out the back door and found my husband weeding the garden. He hugged me as I sobbed and told me to turn the TV off. After that I made a conscious decision to put my attention on what is beautiful, to what uplifts.

I began listening to music by George Harrison, Van Morrison and Joni Mitchell. Their melodies and lyrics soothed me. I can remember watching movies like, Fried Green Tomatoes and Father of the Bride. I reread To Kill a Mockingbird. I poured over children’s picture books and absorbed their exquisiteness. Gradually, I was brought back into feeling that a source of good exists and watches over us. Me, and those I love were safe.

Since that time I am very careful about the kind of energy I expose myself to. I no longer immerse myself in the news but glance at it. I keep my focus on what brings me to a higher place. Without fail, beauty does that.

Something sacred, that’s it. It’s a word that we should be able to use, but people would take it the wrong way. You want to be able to say a painting is as it is, with its capacity to move us, because it is as though it were touched by God. -Pablo Picasso

Whenever I sit down to draw I’m always at a loss. I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. Understanding the responsibility of sharing my gifts makes it even worse. After I finally put my pencil to paper, something begins working through me. Some people call it creativity but I call it God. As skilled as an artisan as I am, without his energy guiding my hand my illustrations would be flat. A collaboration with the Creator is always a sure-fire way to bring forth the amazing.

I heard in an interview with Pharrell Williams that, like me, he wants to use his gifts to lift people up. He was asked, “Are you afraid if you give yourself too much credit, it would all go away?”

“For sure,” he said. “You see people spin out of control like that all the time. I mean, those are the most tragic stories, the most gifted people who start to believe it’s really all them. It’s not all you. It can’t be all you. Just like you need air to fly a kite, it’s not the kite. It’s the air.” Listening to his song, “Happy,” makes me want to catch that same breeze.

Grass Is Greener

Beauty is alive and well in the fine-art photography of Gigi Embrechts.

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Text and images © Sue Shanahan. All rights reserved. www.sueshanahan.com

11 thoughts on “Art Elevates

  1. Sue, thank you for sharing my art and my way of bringing beauty to the world. We are definitely doing our part. I look forward to the inspiration you also bring with each post. Keep them coming.

  2. Sue, thank you for elevating us with both your art and your thoughts. One of my favorite mentors teaches often about how all of nature is always in a state of growth or decay — there is no stasis. So much of life is the conscious choice to choose growth, even against all of the powers of entropy, to make beauty from ashes. Thank you for reminding us that just as collective ill will can destroy, collective good will can lift, inspire, and heal. I don’t think there’s ever been a time when the pursuit of beauty — especially the kind your art reflects, one born of pure goodness — is either more needed or has more nourishing power. You do bless the lives of others, as all who choose to create do. Thank you for sharing your gifts (and thanks to Gigi, too!).

  3. Uplifting post and beautiful drawing, Sue. Keep bringing beauty into the world. Here is a tweet by Pope Francis that reminds me of your thoughts; “Dear young people, let us not be satisfied with a mediocre life. Be amazed by what is true and beautiful, what is of God!”

  4. Beautiful as always Sue… If it had not been for God’s love where would we be… I love when His Spirit moves through me…. Hallelujah!!! Thank you for using the gifts He has placed in you my friend!!!

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