Center for Sacred Psychology

Soul Food Archive: Guest Caterer Specials


Harlem Renaissance Party (detail)
Story Quilt, © Faith Ringgold 1987*
View Entire Quilt

Guest Caterer Specials are side dishes that complement our main courses. The experiences of many spiritual seekers are forming a "cookbook for a sacred life" (Ram Dass' phrase). Might some special delicacy from this potluck meal become a staple at your table?

Please sample our current Main Courses menu, as well as our tasty Desserts & Snacks and earlier dishes in the Soul Food Archive. And, do send your personal comments to our busy kitchen staff. View others' comments here.

 

 

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Our Current Guest Caterer is Betsy Perry of Pasadena, California*

 (The Center (C) recently interviewed Betsy (B) after seeing her artwork)

C: This is an interesting piece of artwork, Betsy.  Can you tell us how it came about?
B: In an ongoing "Art and Spirituality" workshop, our leader--Rebecca Janes*--encourages group members to meditate and pray about our lives and, also, to try different art media. I find this very exciting--the idea of expressing myself in images has been so foreign to my usual reliance on words and thinking.
   
C: For this session, it looks like you used ink and paper--and is that a stick in the corner?
B: Yes, we had big pieces of white paper, and Chinese Sumi ink.  Rebecca put out a variety of brushes and some small branches.  Her suggestion was to begin by going into our ‘quiet place’ to reflect on where our inner lives were that day, then to choose a writing implement.  She had small plastic cups to hold some of this very black ink.
   
C: Not your everyday materials…
B: No!  I had to summon up courage to face the blank white paper--and I knew this dark, deep ink couldn’t be erased.  Very different from using a pencil.  And then, the writing tools were unusual.  In some desperation, I chose the oddest shaped stick.  It’s crooked, as you can see.  It was sort of how my soul felt just then: untidy, not at right angles.
   
C: Once you dipped the stick into the ink, did you have any special design in mind?
B: No, my mind was frighteningly blank.  Then I remembered that Jung, in a similar situation, had felt stuck and began by just making a dot.  So I did that, then it evolved into an uneven spiral, as you can see. This felt reflective of things that were going on inside me.
   
C: Did you stop to think about the drawing, or to analyze it?
B:

No!  I was just anxiously trying to use the stick and ink. Then, I changed to use different angles and surfaces of the stick and found myself making jagged lines radiating out from the middle. I had no ideas about what anything referred to--just lots of energy. These lines felt like energy pulling outward.

   
C: Sounds like you were trusting your feelings, rather than thinking about meaning…sort of a "take up your stick and draw" experience.
B: That’s right. The next thing I realized is that I really wanted to add a circle to enclose everything else. You can just see it there--it’s sort of wavy and weak.  It seemed so important to surround everything, so that the squiggles weren’t pulling me out but were all part of a larger whole.
   
C: How did you know when the picture was finished?
B: There didn't seem to be anything more to do--it just seemed complete to me then.
   
C: Can you tell us a little about your reaction when the picture was finished?
B: I was astonished.  Did I really do this?  I turned the paper different ways: in one way the center seemed as if someone were holding me; in another way, I saw an embryo. So the picture wasn’t only about comfort but also about birth.  I was very pleased.
   
C: So, thinking about the artwork kicked in after you finished drawing.
B: Yes, when I was no longer worried about how to use the materials, and just felt joy. Joy not about making "art," but delight that the art experience helped me to see myself better.
   
C: And a final question, Betsy: what’s happened to this piece since you created it?  Where has it landed?
B: It's pinned up over my desk in my study at home. I look at it and marvel that I made it, and it’s a wonderful reminder of the power of images.  It’s made me more willing to try different ways of knowing myself.
   
C: Thank you, Betsy.  Hope you'll continue to let your "inner artist" have her day!
B: Oh, yes, I will--and thank you!

 

From the Center staff:
Dear Betsy, The poet Rilke writes of how we must give birth to our images, saying, "They are the future waiting to be born."  Your ideas bear this out.  Thank you for providing us with so much Soul Food in just this one drawing and in your comments.  You’ve given us several important clues about how simple, yet how profound, experiences with art materials can be in accessing the soul.  (Betsy P. and the Center welcome responses from other inner explorers as to how this Guest Caterer Special is helpful.  What clues for your soul-tending are here? Let’s make a list...)

 

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We're interested in ways this Soul Food may have touched your life.

Click HERE to send us your comments...

 

I want to say thanks for posting Betsy Perry's story. It gives me the courage to try some super simple art ideas and to name them as part of my soul-life. Thanks and bless you.
Merrilee K.
San Diego, CA



Dear Betsy, Reading about your art and soul experiences gives me the courage to call my doodles prayer. I've always loved to draw and dabble with paint, but never thought about how this could be more than just "kid stuff." Thank you for telling your story. I wish you many years of play and praying with all kinds of art materials.
Janis
Butte, Montana

 

Our Guest Caterer recently brought the following book to our attention. It fits perfectly with the theme of this Special: PRAYING IN COLOR: DRAWING A NEW PATH TO GOD by Sybil MacBeth (Paraclete Press, 2007). Simple, yet from the heart, visual ways to pray.
Center Staff
Los Angeles



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* Credits for this page:

~ The quilts of American fiber artist Faith Ringgold hang in museums around the world.  Harlem Renaissance Party, #2 in her "Bitternest Series," is in the collection of the National Museum of American Art at the Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.  Acryllic on canvas, 94"x82", it pictures eleven guests and their exuberant, mask-holding hostess, Cee Cee.  From lower left around the table, the guests are Celia (or Ceclia), a doctor; Florence Mills, singer and comedienne; Aaron Douglass, painter; Meta Warick Fuller, sculptor; W.E.B. DuBois, organizer and writer; Cee Cee's husband, a dentist; Richard Wright, writer; Countee Cullen, poet, novelist and playwright; Zora Neal Hurston; novelist, folklorist and anthropologist; Alain Locke, philosopher and writer; Langston Hughes, poet and writer.  Gratefully used with permission.  See more of Faith's work at www.faithringgold.com.

~ Betsy Perry writes: I am a historian, now retired from teaching but I continue to do a lot of scholarly work that I really enjoy.  All my life I have been immersed in using my mind and words to express my ideas.  However, with encouragement from my spiritual director, I have been trying to become more aware of images and to be brave enough to express myself through art.  Rebecca Janes' "Art and Spirituality" workshop that I participate in provides a remarkable opportunity to use images rather than words, and feelings more than mind.  I am grateful for supportive friends and for the Spirit that delights in challenging us and helping us discover the sleeping parts of ourselves as we become more aware of our inner Selves.

~ Artist and spiritual director Rebecca Janes' "Art and Spirituality" workshops are held at St. Barnabas Church, Eagle Rock, CA (Los Angeles area).  She welcomes anyone interested in investigating how artways can give voice to the inner world. Please call the St.Barnabas office for details, at 323/254-7569

WATCH FOR OUR NEXT GUEST CATERER SPECIAL -- FROM CHINA -- IN JANUARY

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