I started this series with one painting, which itself slowly developed into a sort of commentary on growing up in the Christian church. And so a series began in which I envisioned I would tell symbolic stories about evangelical culture's effect on society, especially that of America. Eventually it naturally evolved out of that and into a much larger visual exegesis of my life in general and about universal experiences: love and loss, and survival. I originally called it "The Monastery" as a sort of contrasting symbol of this religious concept versus what I felt were scathing criticisms.
As the series grew into something much more fluid with nature itself, literally and metaphorically, I realized that the title could actually be a really beautiful, sacred escape from the monotonous rut of every day. A monastery is a space where there is deliberate stillness, quiet, reflection, inner searching, inner understanding, outer awareness, and ultimately a haven for learning.
I entered this metaphorical chasm with some wood panels
and paints, a quietness in my heart and an intentional sensitivity to the rhythm of nature inside and outside of myself.
My intention is that this made up front cover to back cover monastery will be a sacred space for you to sit in stillness, reflection, searching and learning what is in yourself, too.
Carnival of the Animals: XII. Fossils | Camille Saint-Saens,
Barry Wordsworth, London Symphony Orchestra
ST ANNE | patron saint of motherhood
I had this vision of a mama bear with her cub and wondered what that meant for the very iconic-esque shaped board I had to work with. So, I went out into the World Wide Web to search about the patron saint of motherhood.
To my surprise, as I researched the typical nature of mother bears to be so protective, I stumbled on this article a photographer had written. They wrote about how they had watched a female bear -who are commonly known to fiercely protect their offspring- leave her drowning cub in the treacherous current of the water in order to save herself.
I thought about St Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary, what her story could be as a parent to Mary, her pre-teen daughter who was suddenly with child, betrothed to an older man. I thought about the Church as a mother. I thought about all of the comparisons, the feelings, and how I related.
In this painting the imagery is just very straightforward at the center. You have St Anne with her cub, Mary and the growing vine of pink roses. St Anne is holding a honey stick where a bee lands and there could be a touch of metaphor here with the sweetness of honey, the sting of a bee. The rainbow trout stream border is a symbolic, kind of framing of this story; the protective mother who wil leave her cub to fend for herself in turbulent waters.
I think I see it as a powerful story, not a story of a martyr. Sometimes the paintings are straightforward, I think this one is sort of open for interpretation.
Waltz of the Circassian Beauties by William Tyler
ST ALBAN | patron saint of conversion
This piece came from my research on the European Starling, a bird not native to the Americas, a colonizer just like its namesake. The European Starling is known to be an aggressive bird, who literally steals nests from other birds in order to lay their own eggs and repopulate their own species. A good many native birds to America are in danger or are just gone altogether because of the starling.
The background is a replication of an antique wallpaper that was in an old house that was being renovated. This represents the way we've tried to cover our past with a beautiful blinder, make it our home and feel safe in it.
The mailbox is the American flag of the moon landing. We've put our flag on land that we can't really own, but that we "own" and have claimed as ours. Our mailbox is where we receive mail with our name on it, further affirming this idea that this is where we belong. The ruggedness of the mailbox is about the ancient idea we continue to uphold and the ways in which many of us can't afford to make it cleaner and better looking.
And here we are to the gorgeous earthworm, dweller of the earth, key to creating and maintaining healthy soil- the foundation under us. A true saint. And prey to the Starling.
Maybe there's something in there, too, about the halo of the Starling being self assigned? Maybe that's too far reaching? Maybe all of this is too on the nose? This saint, by the way, is the patron saint of converts. So there's some tie in here about European colonizers and their invasive and abrasive "evangelism" to indigenous people groups. Their complete disregard for the rich culture and beauty of these humans who were from this land, toiled over it, and called ti home.
St Alban is a commentary on colonization, and the true history of many white Americans. Our history can teach us to be different, and to revere the true saints and heroes, while not attempting to erase our past that has brought us to where we are.
My Country 'Tis Of Thy People You're Dying Buffy Sainte-Marie
ST GABRIEL | patron saint of postal workers
Did you know that the USPS doesn't receive taxpayer money via the government? They are funded wholly by the purchase of postage and other services, such as: P.O. Boxes, money orders, and passports.
I just think about all of the things I personally send through the mail, maybe you got this book in the mail! And I do all of that for a pretty low price, which would not be possible without the U.S. Postal Service. But beyond what I mail, when I was learning more about the post office, I read about how for so long the postal service was the only way rural areas got their news. The USPS was the only one who would bring them all of their information and correspondence.
In 2020 they were at risk of being shut down with extra thanks to the consistent lack of aid from the government. This was all happening during a chaotic election season where many ballots were being mailed in due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Voters were being suppressed and apart from the election, Americans were potentially going to lose a valuable resource.
I like to think of the USPS as a holy, foundational part of our community.
I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter | Fats Weller
ST DWYNWEN | patron saint of unrequited love
Sometimes I dream about unrequited love stories and I guess if I could afford a therapist I might have some further insight on why out of the blue my brain wants to work some of that out while I sleep.
When I was in the second grade we watched Little Women for the first time on TV. It builds up to where Laurie tells Jo how much he loves her and wants to be with her and she tells him how she could never love him like that, how she wants to stay his friend. I went to the bathroom to cry and pray she would fall in love with him. She doesn't, just for the record.
I have always, for as long as I can remember had crushes. And all of a couple of times that person actually "liked" me back. Of course, it never really mattered that much to me until high school, when I started to feel the weight of growing up. I always sort of felt like that was really embarrassing to admit to, even to myself.
I was so caught up in love stories that I started a "Dear Future Husband" journal and read basically every religious book on dating and boys that I could find.
I don't think I ever really told many of them that I liked them, you know. I went the passive route, which, as l'm sure you can imagine, went great! And by great, I mean that none of them probably knew. I took it as rejection anyway.
I guess it wasn't really as much of being afraid of rejection that I didn't profess my love, as it was culturally inappropriate for a woman (young woman, in my case) to lead the charge on initiating anything.
And so I waited... for all the cues. Or maybe it just felt more romantic to seem uninterested and be sought after.
Maybe I could chalk it up to all of the small schools I went to and their "ponds" in comparison to the sea and all of the fish in it. Well-meaning people told me it's because I'm intimidating, which I don't think I ever truly believed or understood, honestly. One thing I do know about myself is that I can be very private and withdrawn until I feel comfortable and even then, depending on the state of my mental health, it can swing one way or the other. Some people call it being "shy". Maybe it's personality, or maybe it's from growing up moving so much.
Being vulnerable in a search for love can feel a little jellyfish like; your throbbing heart, translucent and present, yet can be untouchable. But please, forget me not!
I think the reason that I got caught up in it as an adult was trying to figure out what it said about me as a person. I feel that I learn about myself from interacting with other people and their reactions to me. And I guess in my most insecure days, look for worth there. But when you haven't been afforded those relationships and have been pseudo rejected time and time again, I kind of lived in my head about who I am and how I am perceived.
Invisible Lovers | Angel Ruediger
ST JOSEPH | patron saint of a happy death
One of the most profound and scariest things I've done is reflect on things thought I knew or were good for me and accept that I had been wrong and need to move on. There is freedom in that happy death. Letting things go that were not truths to me, accepting that there are healthier things ahead, even if the journey forward will be work.
The full moon as the holy halo is completely illuminated and a symbol of clarity. St Joseph, the bat is a symbol of death and rebirth. The moonflowers growing up from the inverted arch are representative of blossoming in dark times, the potential for evolution of self in difficult seasons of life. They open in the light of the moon, reflecting its brilliance back.
There's a loneliness that comes from letting go, but there's power in the acceptance and acknowledgement of new things.
Never Going Back | Ari Posner, Amin Bhatia
ST DYMPHNA | patron saint of anxiety & depression
St Dymphna is the missing painting of the series due to a collaboration mishap. In place of a piece that never came to fruition, about what felt like was a really important topic to me, I created a textile work in which I could wear my anxieties, fears, and depression.
The original saint in nature was going to be a moth, a particularly eerie, incredibly fragile creature often seen in the night, desperately drawn to the light. So, I made-shift an abstract moth costume with stitching from Mary Oliver's poem Wild Geese, patches from an independent artist to represent the acceptance of being
highly sensitive, and handmade baubles and buttons from small businesses across the States to bring the piece together.
My friend and photographer Madison Miles took photos of me in the costume on a cool afternoon amongst some of my favorite friends, trees and flowers.
Wild Geese by Mary Oliver I from podcast "OnBeing with Krista Tippett"
ST ULPHIA | patron saint of transformation
Growing up is kind of hard and emotional. There's a transformation happening. And even if you're an adult, technically speaking, you're still growing up and transforming. Sometimes in transformation there is pain and hopefully healing.
I have a memory of sitting on a hill of eucalyptus trees with the other students in my high school graduating class. They had been my friends and like my family for a long time, even though I had been back and forth between schools and countries. In my memory, the air is crisp with the smell of tea tree oil, even if just in my memory. And I just feel an ache in my chest, like this moment was forever and not at the same time.
I used to use tea tree oil on pimples and wounds in high school, it's supposed to have healing properties in it. That afternoon on that hill felt like a symbol of healing in transition and transformation.
I like to ask myself questions to find answers. And sometimes the questions are the answers.
So . . . Where is the healing in transformation?
If I Could Talk To A Younger Me | Béla Fleck, Abigail Washburn
ST RITA | patron saint of survival
After a collaboration had just gone awry, I asked my friend Michael Arpino of The Moth Flock if he would be interested in working on a background for one of my pieces. When I started this series I saw it more as a one person project, probably to protect myself, because of the personal nature of it. But as I talked more about it and the meanings, it felt really important to make it a collaborative effort. Building a community of people contributing even their thoughts and ideas, was really valuable to me.
Michael took the board first and painted this beautiful goldenrod color with flowers and stars and I thought there really wasn't any better way to honor this piece than to do my own rendition of his button-eyed possum from The Pokeweed Jamboree.
Thinking about opossums survival tactic of playing dead, it made me consider all the ways in which I try to survive, even sometimes "playing dead", couch potato-ing and resting.
Author Ashley Simpo said, "You really have to tend to heart pain like it's body pain." Which wasn't something I had ever considered before. I find that I tend to push through it, "managing" it by putting my energy into obsessively controlling other things, like cleaning the house. I feel like we are all just trying to make it like a bunch of scruffy, scrappy possums.
Move on Up | Curtis Mayfield
ST CAJETAN | patron saint of good fortune
I met this Candy Apple Bolete on a rainy camping trip. I was emotionally spent and I needed to lie on the moss, carry stream pebbles in my pockets like crystals, and fall asleep to the sound of the rain springing from the tent roof. All of my worries would be focused on stoking the campfire at night and breathing with the earth.
While walking through the woods on no particular path I just happened to come upon this apple red treasure, so regal and sacred. I knew it looked magical and felt special, but honestly didn't understand the real magic of finding such a special mushroom, brand new and untouched. I think this is when mushrooms became close friends to me.
The Star card in tarot is representative of good fortune, it invites you to find your balance no matter how difficult the traveling has been. It tells you there's a new journey with renewed hope.
When you stumble upon a mushroom it's kind of like finding a little magic; Like seeing a bright star and finding an inner stillness as you stare in its distant, glaring bright light.
Maybe your star doesn't need to be a mushroom, but there's some magic everywhere and fi you call attention to it, it can be what you need to remind you there's balance and renewed hope.
Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68 'Pastoral': IV. Allegro (2) |
Ludwig van Beethoven, Staatskapelle Dresden, HerbertBlomstedt'
Use the space below to write yourself a note of forgiveness. The submission will be entirely anonymous and sent to monasteryconfessionbooth(at)gmail.com.
Paintings | Esperanza
ABOUT THE ARTIST
I am Hannah. Some people lovingly call me Hannie.
And for a while I just tried to get everyone to call me Hannie, because it makes me feel loved.
I grew up sandwiched between quite the buffet of cultures. I was born in Hawaii, but started my life in Pennsylvania. My third grade year we moved to the Philippines for a very short time where I would start forming some of my first most influential memories. One memory specifically in which we were walking through what I think was a Buddhist temple. I remember the room flooded with golden sun filtered through the gilded, delicately carved panels set around the room, with the tapestries and the kind of eerie, sacred stillness. I remember the chaotic market surrounding the busy Roman Catholic Church where the Black Nazarene statue lives, watching people touch the statues in glass boxes, crying.
Halfway through the school year we moved to Indonesia where we lived until I graduated high school, sometimes waking up to the early call to prayer blasting across the neighborhood from the local mosque. A few years mixed in we returned to our home country where I attended a school in our church.
Moving back to the States for college I attended a small Christian college in Upstate New York, which ended up feeling very out of place for me. I dropped out with an associates degree and moved back in with my parents. Walking through used bookstores to find the sacred stillness there, I found Khalil Gibran's 'A Tear and a Smile'.
A couple years later I moved to Tennessee where I spent a lot of time in the Smokies searching for and finding sacred stillness; morel mushrooms lining the path of a trail in Cades Cove, falling asleep to rain and cooking breakfast over a popping morning fire, feeling the spray of waterfalls, looking for little fairytale creatures in the moss and ferns, and breathing in the cool fog of the mountain air.
I believe there is sacred stillness everywhere and it first lives inside of you