“This little wooden sewing box was made by Rose‘s great grandfather. All of the women in Rose‘s family sew or work with threads and fabrics in some creative way. Rose feels the threads of connection, shining and strong and colorful, with her family and ancestors. The tradition continue in her artwork in her stitched drawings on transparent fabric overlays on her paintings.”
In early 1975, I was teaching my first college level art course. A few weeks into the semester, I came up with ways of teaching very different from the way I had been taught. I wanted to give assignment that would encourage students to access their deep creativity. I was terrified. I knew that, if the assignments I designed did not have that result, I might be seen as too “out there” and lose my job. Happily, my way of teaching was a success. Each student’s work became stronger. I taught all of my subsequent courses using variants of those early assignments, plus many more that I brought to my teaching over the years. I was gratified when the Chair of the Fine Arts Department of Florida International University told me that he had noticed that students’ work became stronger after taking any one of my courses. He told me that their work became stronger and more accomplished in their chosen medium—and, most importantly, that they did not imitate my work. I was very grateful for this feedback, letting me know I was on the right track.
At the time, My courses were called Drawing, Painting, 2D Design, and Fibre Sculpture. When I moved to San Francisco, and was able to name and design the courses I taught, I called my signature course “Art as a Sacred Process”. My syllabi included the many original assignments I had designed, and began with something like the following statement:
In the word “ineffable”, the English language admits it own limitations. This word bespeaks an entire realm of experience that is, by definition, beyond words. Our desire to invoke this ineffable realm calls forth the language of art, the colorful, shapely language of the mythic imagination. Our artful Wise Hands can access and express profound mythic consciousness.
This presentation was part of the From the Realm of the Ancestors: Language of the Goddess conference sponsored by the Women’s Spirituality Program at CIIS (June 12-14, 1998 at Cowell Theatre, Fort Mason in San Francisco) in honor of the pioneering archeologist Marija Gimbutas. The conference focused on the necessity of refocusing our collective memory, and to the cultivation of vision, creativity, insight, and the celebration of life. The conference was moderated by Joan Marler and featured presentations by scholars and artists who acknowledge the significance of Dr. Gimbutas’ research and theories. Gimbutas’ discovery of Goddess-centered, matristic societies that preceded the development of patriarchy in Europe has initiated a new perception of European prehistory that challenges traditional assumptions about the origins of western civilization.
Visit past and recent creations by artist Rose Wognum Frances