When a FRIEND dies right in the middle of things, right in the middle of LIFE—where does it leave those of us who remain? When Sally died on August 22, 2010, it left vast and various communities here in the Atlanta area openly wondering this question. What do we MAKE of our LOVE for Sally and what do make of our LIVES? Last February at a SPIRITUAL ART PILGRIMS’ meeting Sally quoted to us from Hildegard von Bingen: “The soul is not in the body; the body is in the soul.”
(All of the artwork you see here in this particular blog is Sally's. I am especially fond of the image of the woman's head with the leaf coming out of her mouth. Speaking of nature? Aspiration? The black torso with the head coming out of its side is an image of Sally's that she repeated frequently. For her, it was about the emergence of Eve from Adam's ribs. The little boy figure cut out of pond rubber is one of many pieces Sally left behind. Each fragment tells part of her story.)
Does that mean that once the BODY is gone, that the SOUL is still here, present among us? Certainly for those of us who are artists, we can find evidence of Sally in the art that she left us. Could we change Von Bingen’s words like this: “The soul is not in the art. The art is in the soul.”?
On Labor Day, Britt, Sally’s husband, invites me into the splendor of the holy objects belonging to his wife, my friend, my collaborator in the refugee community art workshops, and fellow art maker and PILGRIM. Britt asks me into her studio to put away her art supplies. Thank you Britt for giving me this opportunity to be with Sally, as everything about her feels so fleeting, as if she is leaving all of us, escaping into an eco-zone beyond this EARTH. In her studio, I hold her Art—the art-if-facts of Sally Wylde.
(In order to gather Sally's art supplies, I had to gather her "artifacts" that inhabited the shelves amongst all of her paints, tools and papers. I stacked larger pieces of artwork. I put smaller ones in plastic baggies to await her daughters' arrivals and perusal. Some I took out and pinned on the bulletin board you see here to join other work Sally had hanging there. )
Artifacts—half human figures with holes in their torsos, galloping horses, women dancing, half forms of trees and houses, paper after paper hand-sized like a bird nestled in shelves with pieces of brightly colored fabric, remnants of performances—the Lump Journey’s eggs (rattle shakers), tree limbs, branches, pieces of bamboo, honeycomb, grape vines twirled into haloes, words, calendars, numbers, lots and lots of pencils, staplers, pliers, gallons of glue, rubber, boards, larger pieces of paper, important Mark Nepo poems, layers and layers of LIFE, blue, green, red—multicolor expressions, memories incremented on line of fabric, sewn into garments, glued onto paper, holding whispers of yearning….Sally yearned for ever more knowledge, leaning into the feminine, cultivating and anticipating increasing wisdom. Sally was beyond being a nature lover—she was a NATURE BELIEVER and worshiper….
How many paintbrushes are there? More than it is timely to count. How many paint tubes? Old ones dying or dead, newer ones bigger and fresh. Scissors and jars of paint, carving tools and printmaking inks, needles and pins, and embroidery floss, burlap and canvas, and mesmerizing fabric from exotic places.
(Jesse, Cecelia, and Lesly met me at Sycamore Place Gallery, where Chiboogamoo and I have just gotten a studio space, to make prints for the parade following Sally's memorial service. An important member was missing from our printmaking--Robey Tapp.)
The SOUL is not in the ART; the ART is in the SOUL. Sally, your SOUL left us these remnants. A group of us artists decide to open our SOULs and MAKE ART using the block prints you have left behind. It is there that we find you as we print these words on paper: WONDER, FEAR NOT, THANK YOU, ALL WILL BE WELL. We burnish your images in red, orange, green, and blue onto brown and white paper: a girl riding a galloping horse, a sailboat, women dancing, stars, and an angel….
(On September 11, minutes away from a sunset, we paraded down the streets of Oakhurst, passing Sally and Britt's house, to get to the community garden. On our way, we saw a rainbow in the sky!)
Other friends cut bamboo and cardboard, creating signs to hold these images of OUR UNIFIED SOULs. YOUR ART IS IN OUR SOULS. At your memorial service, the Oakhurst Baptist Church is filled with OUR COLLABORATIVE SOUL SIGNs. Afterwards, in a joyous parade the community carries these banners to the community garden you started. Drums beat, and we dance holding you amongst us in YOUR images, OUR images now.
Hallelujah for all of us SOULs—PILGRIMs. Hallelujah for ART being there inside us ALL. ALL WILL BE WELL. FEAR NOT. WONDER. THANKYOU. Hallelujah loves art and community! Hallelujah!