Confluence Ceremonies

Marking Your Life's Important Moments

Tag: Steve Love

Losing Sight of the Shore

One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight, for a very long time, of the shore. —Andre’ Gide

 

Recently, three generations of our family attended an opening at a local art gallery.

The exhibit’s title, “The Big Sleep,” is, as you may know, a euphemism for death.

“Conversations on Finality” is the specific focus of this visual conversation created by art, a sort of “death café” for the eye, a mixed-media discussion of the various terminals we face in life. The different works frequently addressed the theme of physical death, but others took us further into this major metaphor of our lives.

One sculpture I can’t forget is a cast bronze by Steve Love. Barely bigger than your laptop and standing approximately 12 inches, “Crossing” depicts a little rowboat, just big enough for a man, a woman, and boatman holding an oar that reaches to the water below. He stands forward in the boat, and looks ahead toward the far shore as he moves the little boat through the water. Behind him sits a naked man to one side of the boat, his arms violently gripping the rail, his body tense, seeming to ask frantically, “How did I get here? How do I get back?” In stark contrast to him, in the aft of the boat sits a naked woman, motionless—she is stilled, her hands in her lap. Her gaze is not into the water or even toward the now-invisible shore she has left forever; instead, she focuses inward. She seems to be thinking: “I am here. This is what is now.”

After gathering my many initial responses, I allowed the critical part of my brain to engage. I began to see more details, like the froth in the small boat’s wake, just little hints of water and wave amazingly cast into the dark metal sculpture. The artist’s careful technique aptly described a boat not hurrying, but moving deliberately, steadily. For, why hurry? Time has no seat on the trip from life to death. This poem beside the sculpture communicates the sculpture’s end-of-life theme:

[For a bronze sculpture titled “Crossing”]

Death is a journey,
A passage.

Across the river Styx to the gates of the underworld,
Over the Jordan of Death to the promised land,
Following in a boat the sun on his journeys in the Upper Waters.
Across the Great Stream!

Our ancestors came out of the sea.
At birth we emerge from the embryonic fluid of the womb,
And into the dark churning waters we depart.

 

~Steve Love

The artist stood nearby, as we are always appreciative of in a gallery opening. Steve Love is familiar to me, as his sculpture “Twisp” was the subject of the art installation ceremony I enacted last summer at the Twisp Ponds site. I knew him to be a man of few words, a refreshing combination of humorous and erudite, and in possession of more than a little insight into life’s big themes.

“Thank you for your woman”—these are the strange words that came out of my mouth—and I motioned toward the sculpture before us. He looked into my eyes for a short moment and then gracefully answered: “You’re very welcome.”

“I can’t figure out why she, of all three figures, affects me the most. She is the least detailed and the still-est.”

“She is stoic . . . and serene,” he answered. “She has accepted what is, and does not fight it.”

That was it. Especially in comparison to the poor fellow at the side of the boat who appeared to be contemplating a panicky jump overboard and a swim back—to where?—she was instead gathering herself for this journey. She was taking stock. She had opened herself to the real, to change, and was now preparing to be transformed. She was quietly becoming.

Yes, the sculpture was about death. But not only that. It was also about how we live.

The truth is, hard change is a part of life. We need to mark important but sometimes painful passages in order to be able to, like the woman in the boat, consent to let go of the shore. Like her, we need to stop and contemplate the leaving behind in order to grasp the importance of the journey itself. This release begins the necessary transformation from was to is. Release prepares us for what will be.

As I stood in the gallery with my husband, his aging mother, and our adult son contemplating this wise artwork, I saw its relevance to how we live. In its commemoration of the journey that transformation is, this work depicts our own choice: we can try as hard as we can to resist change, or we can accept it.

Celebrancy helps us to discover new lands, because it creates ceremonies that hold sacred a vital and creative space for pause, allowing for acceptance, assessment, and contemplation before we set off toward whatever awaits off shore.IMG_1872

Home Is Where Art and Nature Meet

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHow Celebrancy Supports Communities

Recently, I offered my celebrancy services to a local community art dedication. The ceremony was to mark the outdoor installation of a sculpture and commemorate the cooperative partnership that brought that art to life: the confluence of two organizations, one in the arts community and one in the fish restoration community, but both neighbors of our lovely Methow Valley in North Central Washington State.

The process that had taken us from a vision to a reality was complete, and a ceremony was in order. Everyone who had been involved in coordinating this project was in a jubilant mood! Both locals and curious vacationers gathered together. In all, about 30 people attended the dedication.

The June day was warm and bright. A cool breeze blew off the Twisp River, lightly rippling the ponds. The air was filled with the buzzing of bees and the rushing of water in the low falls between the ponds that provide nurturing habitat for endangered salmon.

As we stood in a clearing forming a circle around the new sculpture, we knew we were likewise surrounded by nesting birds, snakes, beaver, and young fawns; this is also their community. Come winter, the bears and coyotes and even cougars will call this habitat “home.” Painters, birdwatchers, elementary students, science professors, nature lovers, photographers, tourists, and everyday neighbors enjoy free access to and make use of this special space year round.

In describing to me their visions for the ceremony, both group’s directors had emphasized the importance of the positive impacts on the community of art and the local ponds that were built to help restore endangered fish runs. By placing art on paths around these ponds, the public is drawn both to the art and to the activity of care for endangered salmon. Within the environment of water, trees, river, and ponds enhanced by a rich flora and fauna across the site, the community, we hope, becomes invigorated by and reinvested in both art and nature.

In my opening remarks, I spoke about the power of art to create a “community of care” that we all, nature included, need in order to live healthy lives in healthy neighborhoods. The speakers, both groups’ directors and the artist, then filled us in on the process of bringing together this partnership and the process of creating a memorable work of art for the site.

The sculpture, titled Twisp, was created by Steve Love, a quiet man, uncomfortable speaking aloud and in front of people. He nevertheless shared his own vision of his work with us. And none of our country’s greatest orators ever uttered a more effective address. He told us of the method he uses to create art, often working in a “semi-conscious state” at first, so as to allow his pure creativity to control the work. Later, he returns to the work with a more critical eye to address structural, practical issues (how will a sculpture stand up? Can it withstand the elements?). Finally, he considers the subtext of the work, reaching deeply into it to better grasp its symbolic power and purpose.

In closing, I urged those present to see themselves as part of this community of care, an active group of neighbors whose investment in the ponds’ site and its art—and by extension the local community—makes them important partners of care and positive transformation.

Finally, my concluding blessing spoke of the timelessness of our gathering, the importance of bringing our children into this ethic of community care, and our need to be ever-mindful of our roles as neighbors of the world, part of an interconnected community of humanity and nature. Aware of art’s ability to inspire and nature’s ability to nurture us, we must reach out into our communities and actively support both.

ART DEDICATION: Twisp by Steve Love (sculpture)
June 28, 2014
Methow Salmon Recovery Foundation’s Twisp Ponds Site
Twisp, Washington

Sponsored by Methow Arts Alliance (methowarts.org) and Methow Salmon Recovery Foundation (methowsalmon.org)