Recently I was inspired to sign up to receive notices from a local arts alliance. One day I saw a call for artists that caught my interest. “Our Neighbors, Ourselves” is a juried show that asked artist to look into another culture and create a piece of artwork. Then I read that recycled materials were strongly encouraged.
Do you know how often I look at trash and think about how it could be used in a piece of art? (Let’s just say more often than not.)
Then a couple of things happened almost simultaneously.
First, my son was throwing out some Styrofoam packaging from something he had ordered online. I held it in my hands and knew, just knew I wanted it - although I wasn’t exactly sure for what as yet.
Later, I reread the call. The theme was, “The World Within”. I looked at the list of countries shared on the website.
Afghanistan caught my eye.
Or maybe it's more accurate to say Afghanistan called to me.
I decided to do some online research. Two images grabbed my attention.
One was of a group of women wearing sky-blue burqas.
The other was of a dove sitting in the window of a tiled wall of a mosque in Kabul. I felt almost giddy when I opened the images for a larger view.
That piece of Styrofoam was the window.
But the window wasn’t just a window. No. It was also what is beneath the burqa. The world within.
The dove, the tile, was beautiful. Is beautiful.
I’ve known few Muslim women. All of whom I’ve met here, in Colorado. None wear a burqa, however two wear hijabs. The two who wear hijabs are more recent friends. Both are gentle, loving souls.
I’ve only seen beauty in my Muslim friends and the vibrancy of the color tiles seemed to reflect their beauty as well as speak to the history of the people of this land.
And the dove?
The dove represents what I see behind the burqas; what I see in my Muslim friends. Women who not only desire peace, but live peace. Women who speak with kindness and compassion. Women whose beauty may be kept behind the fabric of a burqa, but radiates outward nonetheless.
A little about my friends...
Amal is in her late sixties. We met at a Nia dance class and discovered we live right down the street from each other. We often encounter each other during sunset walks and so walk together, enjoying each other’s company.
The other, a younger woman named Rabia, worked in my kindergarten classroom for a practicum while in college. We kept in touch throughout the years – went out to eat, chatted on the phone… Once I came to her home for dinner. It was the first and only time I’ve ever eaten goat (delicious, btw). She married (an arranged marriage), then moved to out of state.
We call occasionally, but life goes on…
Just in case anybody's curious... Here are photos & notes about the recycled materials I used for this piece.
I'm sending my finished piece out this week as my contribution to this wonderful exhibit. All sales benefit the organization, 100%. I hope my work brings in a few bucks although I must say either way, the process of creating it was great fun!
Deep into my career as an elementary school teacher, I started asking myself if I was still an artist. Can you be an artist if you're not doing any art? Am I a writer if I'm not writing? For me, ARTIST is a verb. Writer too. Do what you love and JOY will come. Maybe money too, but I've discovered without joy, everything else is meaningless.