Painting: Sheila Dunn
We love featuring vital perspectives on the Luminary Blog from inspired and knowledgable women who are committed to cultivating vibrant health, leaning in for connection with themselves and others, and courageously sharing their own unique gifts in a world that needs their engagement and voice. This week we are featuring the soulful musings of artist Sheila Dunn and her perspective on the value and necessity of creating art amidst the uncertainty of life. We are so grateful for her powerful invitation to keep creating, now more than ever, as we were all born to do. We hope you enjoy this luminary woman’s inspiring words as much as we do. With love, Cara & Amber
This is not the post I intended to write. The plan was to share lightheartedly & joyfully about the importance of creativity in our lives– to reference Martha Graham’s quote about the vitality and creative life force within each of us and how imperative it is that we honor it.
But the week I sat down to write this, life took an unexpected turn and I was left feeling gutted. Groundless. In despair. You know, that moment when the foundation below suddenly disappears and you are left suspended in space, not knowing how far you will fall or when. Yeah, that.
The Vitality of Creativity
The only thing I knew to do was turn on some music and pick up my paintbrush. And as the multi-hued mosaic of shapes began to take form on canvas, it hit me. THIS is why creativity is so vital. THIS is why I paint and dance and sing and write. THIS is why I haven’t totally lost my mind yet in this crazy-making world. Creative expression helps us to reconcile this tumultuous human experience: one that can shift from joy and lightness one minute to sadness and uncertainty the next. And when it is too soon for clarity or reconciliation – when the wound is still too new and exposed (as it feels in this moment as I type) – creative expression helps create space for future understanding and integration.
Creativity continually urges us to welcome the raw energy of the moment – the good, the bad, the ugly – into our psyches, our hearts, our spirits. It encourages us to lean into experience not only when it feels inviting, but also when it feels flat-out terrifying; those moments when it feels exceedingly tempting to run like hell in the other direction, to ignore, to numb.
I have painted plenty of pretty, pleasant-feeling portraits in my life. And I know they have brought many people pleasure and comfort. But the paintings that have emerged from those darker, groundless, holy-shit-I-don’t-know-how-to-proceed moments….those are inevitably the ones that resonate most deeply with others. Those are the ones that spark the most recognition, the most empathy, the strongest feelings of “Oh I recognize this fire, this crucible. I too have been there. I too faced this moment, trembling with fear of the unknown. And I too made it to the other side transformed; melded into something stronger and purer and truer.”
When I feel tempted to turn away, to avoid the discomfort of the moment by popping open a bottle of wine and binge-watching something mindless on Netflix, I gently remind myself to lean into the brilliant, blazing fire of this human experience. I remind myself that I need it. That others need it. That this beautiful, wounded world needs it. Then I read the timeless words from the Master of Leaning In, Rumi:
Dance, when you’re broken open.
Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off.
Dance in the middle of the fighting.
Dance in your blood.
Dance, when you’re perfectly free.
And I find comfort in the fact a 13th century poet from Persia wrestled with the very same human struggles and triumphs as I do today. In the fact we were all born to create amidst the chaos, to dance in the middle of both our fighting and breaking of bondages, just as our ancestors did before us. That more will always be revealed and much, much more exists outside our limited view of the here and now.
So in the spirit of Rumi and our ancestors and all those who have walked this winding human path before us, let’s keep creating together. Let’s continue to lean in toward the flame of this beautiful, complicated, awe-inspiring thing called being human. And when we are tempted to shrink back or turn away or wilt, let’s instead move our pens across the page, our voices from our lungs and our freedom-and-blood-soaked paintbrushes across the canvas of this life.
With love Luminaries,
Born and raised in the foothills of northern Colorado, Sheila Dunn currently lives and works in the beautiful town of Bend, Oregon. In 2006, she received a BFA in painting and a minor in art history from Colorado State University. Her love for creating – and belief in its absolute cultural significance – was solidified while studying abroad in Castiglion Fiorentino, Italy in 2005.
Best known for her large, vibrant figure paintings, Sheila’s work explores the fluid relationship between figure and environment: how each continuously informs and affects the other. At the heart of this exploration lies the notion that we both form – and are formed by – all we have seen and experienced.
When she is not in the painting studio, Sheila can be found teaching yoga, searching for her lost keys and exploring the wonders of the Northwest. More of her work can be found at sheiladunnart.com and her Etsy site.