2 paragraphs on my creative relationship with the Shaker Community at Sabbathday Lake, Maine. show»»»
I don’t consider myself to be religious in any definite or traditional way, but I appreciate and respect religion and religious freedom, and all the culture that surrounds it. I grew up in a christian tradition, but my family was not especially observant. Even so, I think that some of those ideas have influenced my sensibilities as a person, and as an artist. Despite whatever personal hang-ups I might have regarding organized religion- mainly it’s ramifications in our political dialogues- some of my closest friends are the Shaker community in New Gloucester, Maine, the only active Shaker community remaining in the world. The Shakers are a monastic community that began in the mid 1700’s in England, but flourished in America. They’re best known for their communal and agrarian way of life, and also their unique architecture and design, which is very minimal, elegant, and functional. I appreciate all those things, and their friendship very much. There’s something very charming about monastic life in general, and even though it isn’t what I desire for my own life, I believe that there is a real affinity between the vocation of a Shaker, and that of an artist. Themes like daily life, how communities function and are united, our individual journeys and desire for understanding, and how customs and traditions survive change by being elastic. All of this is expressed in Shakerism.
I can’t say that I am a ‘believer’, and will readily acknowledge that I trust science implicitly. Still, I believe that mystery constitutes a large portion of our daily lives, and that religion can offer insights into reconciling that mystery if we maintain an open mind. I really like referring to religion (and art) as a vocation, as this implies the need for a constant engagement with the thing you are practicing. While many aspects of art and religion are heuristic pursuits, they will always happen within a broader cultural and societal context. My friends, the Shakers, have successfully navigated this- for over 200 years! I hope to be as mindful in my lifetime.
A short paragraph I wrote as part of a larger article in my friend Tim's amazing blog, disparateminds.org. It's a review of a show at White Columns, NYC, of work by Artist Helen Rae.