Monday, January 24, 2011

SPIRITUAL ART PILGRIM INTERVIEW #1: CECELIA KANE--Conceptual Visual Artist—Searching for Meaning in the Face of Death

Hallelujah for the JOURNEY and for the PILGRIMS we meet along the way! Each month in 2011, I will be HONORING a different SPIRITUAL ART PILGRIM, one who has shared her HEART and SOUL with me through the miraculous medium of ART! I invite you to join me in my EXPLORATIONS of the OTHER, for it is through investigations of how we are similar and different from ANOTHER that we truly come to know ourselves! Hallelujah!

The first SOUL in my “Spiritual Art Pilgrim Interviews,” is my Decatur, Georgia, neighbor Cecelia Kane. CeCe, as friends are apt to call her, is an artist of note. (See her website to discover the broad expanse of her creative endeavors.)
In the HALLELUJAH INTERVIEWS, however, the goal is to dramatize specifically the relationship between ART and SPIRITUALITY. An artist like CeCe (I prefer to think of her as SEE SEE) is challenging to write about since most of her immense body of work is spiritually based! Let’s get started and see what can be “currently” illuminated about her SPIRTUAL ART SOJOURN!

HALLELUJAH: What is the connection between the ART you make and your SPIRITUALITY?

SEE SEE: First, to answer this question, I had to look up “spirituality.” The dictionary was no help. The definition of SPIRIT is more like it--the GROUND SOURCE of BEING, the ESSENCE of BEING and EXISTENCE. Then we can define "spirituality" as the search for this ESSENCE.


SEE SEE: ART is a tool. ART is a language. Kind of like the way math is a language for physicists. Math helps concretize something that we can’t wrap our heads around. We can’t understand dark matter without the language of math.

BEING and EXISTENCE is a massive and ephemeral topic. Although a lot of people don’t understand the language of ART, ART is a pathway into another way of seeing.

HALLELUJAH: Tell me about how your project “89 Days, How Am I Feeling Today?” uses the LANGUAGE of ART to explore BEING and EXISTENCE.

SEE SEE: “89 Days” is a study of identity. Am I my thoughts, feelings, body, face, Catholic heritage? Am I my mother’s child? She lived for 89 years. I asked these questions, taking photographs of myself for 89 consecutive days trying to concretize my feeling of the moment. Then I reproduced these 89 photographs again, this time on hankies in a distorted way.

HALLELUJAH: And you also video taped yourself wearing a replica of your Catholic school uniform each day with a different hankie in your your pocket and asking about how you were feeling for another 89 days….

SEE SEE: Yes, but I stopped filming myself after 68 days because I had my answer. I knew I am simply not my thoughts and feelings. I’m wasting my time. Thoughts and feelings are as ephemeral as the body. We are simply dreams….


SEE SEE:  What is real? In “89 Days,” I tried to hang a structure using ART so that I could define reality. Making this structure was like hanging reality on a clothesline daily, step by step. In Catholicism, we pray in small increments of counting like the rosary or saying a novena. (See more about 89 Days.) 
(These photos were taken at the opening of Cecelia's show, "89 Days.")

HALLELUJAH: Where did the completion of this project “89 Days” leave you?

SEE SEE: Still asking two other questions—What is the nature of CONSCIOUSNESS? What is the nature of DEATH?

HALLELUJAH: I know that you have a large body of ARTwork, past and present, exploring these topics of CONSCIOUSNESS and DEATH. Could you tell me about the prominent and persistent symbols occurring in this ART?

SEE SEE: The “eye” is used to represent awareness and consciousness.

The “heart” stands for the life of the body—the thumping, concrete rhythm of life.

The “brain” represents the life of the mind—thoughts and feeling, logic and emotion.

HALLELUJAH: Let’s look at some of the ART you are currently working on. You have three examples.

SEE SEE: (EXAMPLE 1—WINGS) I began by drawing mechanical wings for my mother Hazel because of her fear of dying (Go to SEE SEE’s website to learn more about this image.).  

HALLELUJAH: Then you painted wings for yourself, using the symbols of the EYE, HEART, and BRAIN.

SEE SEE: I painted life-sized wings with realistic aspects, painting straps for my shoulders and hand holds.

HALLELUJAH: I remember these wings. They were quite large—about a ten-foot wingspan. (See an earlier blog entry of Coffee With Hallelujah to see photos of these wings at an early stage.)

SEE SEE: I cut them down to make them more manageable, maneuverable. I gave these wings to Sally Wylde when she was in hospice. She had asked for photos of the wings, but I sent her THE wings.

HALLEUJAH: That was very powerful and meaningful since several of us, including Sally, had “experimented” with these wings a couple of times in our Spiritual Art Pilgrim group. The life-sized aspect of the wings were so inviting to me—even if we were doing imaginary “test flights” into life after death.
(Cecelia taking a journey with her first set of wings, which were started at Hambidge in December 2009.)

SEE SEE: Now, I’m making new wings for myself.

HALLELUJAH: You started these wings around the time of Sally’s death in August. You collected small pieces of sticks on your daily walks with your dog, Etta. They reminded you of bones and provided the structure for this new painting of wings. They have certainly evolved in the last four months. Let’s look at the prominent symbols of EYES, HEARTS, and BRAINS occurring in them.

SEE SEE: The EYES and HEARTS are on the right side, representing BODY and CONSCIOUSNESS. This is the transition period. Life is rising so to speak. There is still green growth. This part of the wing is still attached to the earth. I don’t understand why, but there are green roots. 

(Cecelia's second set of wings, which were started in August 2010.)

The left side of the wings has lost color. There are skulls, which really represent DEATH. The skulls are rising and fading into bright whiteness—to the essence of DEATH. The self is somehow in some other environment. It is so bright we can’t see.

HALLELUJAH: And how is the BRAIN symbolized here? (SEE SEE gestures to the center of the wings that suggests something like a spinal cord.)

SEE SEE: This would be the brain showing the split, the bifurcation.

(Cecelia in her Decatur, Georgia, studio, trying the wings on.)

HALLELUJAH: Let’s look at another example of the way you use the symbols of the BRAIN, HEART, and EYES. You have a series of garments you have made that you call “Safety Wear.” Tell me about your “Consciousness Cape.”

SEE SEE: (EXAMPLE 2—CONSCIOUSNESS CAPE) It has a mink collar and on the tapestry, I’ve embroidered brains and synapses and sewn on hand made clay hearts. This “outside” part of the cape is the glorious, exuberant physical aspect of ourselves that we show to others. Inside the cape is a silk lining with sad suffering eyes, connected by a network of vines and thorns. This “inside” is “essential awareness,” which is hidden. This inner awareness of self is not physical.
Cecelia puts on the Consciousness Cape showing the white embroidered brains and clay hearts. This photo was taken in her cabin at Hambidge in December 2009.

Cecelia is showing the cape reversed, revealing the silk lining with the sad, suffering eyes.

HALLELUJAH: Right now, you are using similar imagery on a painting.

SEE SEE: (EXAMPLE 3: Large Painting Still in Process). This painting, covered in eyes connected by flowers and sprouting leaves has at least four layers: my fleshy pink background, a network of interconnected blue eyes, a layer of flower blueprints, and now the invasion of dark matter with roses in suspension (the dark matter and roses were added after the first interview).

Cecelia in her studio kneeling next to her painting covered in eyes.

HALLELUJAH: What are you saying about the SPIRIT here?

SEE SEE: At the deepest level, God and his retinue of colorful flowers emerge as a sad awareness. Why is that? It is my inability to define God’s and my existence—because I don’t know who I am.

HALLELUJAH: Has SPIRIT always been a part of your ART? Why?

SEE SEE: Yes. It’s like my hands got bigger and extended out when I started doing art. My drawing hand became the tool for the extension of self.
HALLELUJAH: Who do you consider influential in the way you think and make art?

SEE SEE: Well, for one, Natalie Goldberg, who gives writers permission to be writers. When I read her book, Writing Down the Bones, I just plugged in the word artist every time she wrote writer. She uses basic Buddhist ideas, which really resonated with me. 

Then there is Bruce Nauman, an early video artist who did two strong pieces about death. There’s one video of him repeatedly playing four notes on the violin: d  e   a   d. His underground piece involved digging an empty space under a gallery and putting a box like a coffin in it. His video camera projected this underground image on the gallery wall. Death…he was defining death as nothing. That’s scary. It arrested me.

Haruki Murakami’s novel, Wind up Bird Chronicle, uses magical realism. It takes place in a Tokyo suburb, and there is an empty well next to an abandoned house. It is through this well that the character is transported to other realities.

This image relates to a new body of work I want to do--digging a hole underground, creating a “well” and putting a simple chair in it. I want to sit in that chair and ask my mother what it is like to be dead.

HALLELUJAH: Do you think it is harmful to ask about DEATH? Do you think it is morose?

SEE SEE: ART is my way of looking at the feeling of sadness and moroseness surrounding death—and releasing it.

At the end of the interview, Cecelia took a moment to pose with her canine companion, Etta.
HALLELUJAH: SEE SEE, how gracious you were to invite me to your studio and to talk to me about YOUR SPIRIT in ART. I look forward to seeing your work as it evolves. THANK YOU!


  1. Thank you Sherry! Blessings to you and your JOURNEY!

  2. Lovely interview HALLELUJAH and interesting work from See See.
    Maybe we can have a virtual coffee at some point.
    *Ed Parkinson

  3. Dear Ed Parkinson! I would love to say hello virtually. I need to spend more time on your website! Nice to meet you FELLOW ART PILGRIM!


    In the Creator "we live and move and have our being" - the art of the spiritual is not necessarily the unseen, but, if in our consciousness, it is the miracles of nature we take for granted.