My Art and Life with Animals Coming Together

Fanny and my snow shoes
Curious Fanny checking out my snow shoes

Something different is happening in my art and my life with animals.  Or maybe it was always there and I’m just becoming aware of it or allowing myself to believe it.  Since I can remember I’ve been drawn to animals, all kinds of animals.  As a kid I  wished I had a special connection to them, like a secret language or that they would choose me somehow.  But I never really thought of myself as someone capable of that, I never thought of myself as special enough.

I’ve had dogs and cats for most of my life, but other than that, I haven’t spent much time around other animals, although I continued to be interested in them .   Then, when I was in my early 40’s I started feeding the animals at Bedlam Farm.  At the time, Jon and I were just friends and he had 4 donkeys, 3 cows, more than 20 sheep, three goats, three hens and two barn cats.  I remember thinking, it took me forty years, but finally I got to feed the animals.  I would actually cry when I brought the hay out to the feeders.  I didn’t know why I was crying, but it felt like I had finally arrived, after so many years of being deprived.  Deprived of that connection to animals that I craved since childhood.

Then Jon started taking pictures of me and the donkeys.  By then he just had Fanny and Lulu and the barn cats and he and I were living together. He wrote about the connection between me and the donkeys that he captured in his photos.  Everyone seemed to see it, but I couldn’t.  I could feel it, but was afraid to put words to it.  I still didn’t think myself capable of such a thing as much as I wanted it.  I denied it for years.

But little by little, I began to open myself up to it. I could see something happening in Jon’s photos and started to admit it to him and myself.  Then I allowed myself to acknowledge what I was feeling when I crouched next to the donkeys, that opening of my heart, the listening and blurring of beings that would happen between us.

And now I feel like all of this has gone even further.  And it scares me like it used to, not because I’m afraid of what might happen, but because I don’t think I’m special enough for something like this to happen to.   And, like being an artist,  it’s something that I’ve wanted for a  long, long time.

But it does seem to be happening this connection and communication between me and the animals.  And some of its basic and practical, like bringing them food, and some of its mystical, like hearing words and seeing images in my mind when I’m with them.   And I’m just realizing that the animals have made their way into my art.  Not that I wasn’t conscious of using animals in my work, but they’ve entered it organically.  They have become  so integrated in my life, I would almost be lying if I didn’t use them.  And like communicating with them, it’s practical, in that I’m using what’s in front of me to influence my art  and mystical, when they come to me  in my dreams and visions and make their way into my work.

But  Nicole said it best when she left this comment on my blog:  “ that ancient bond speaks so clearly in your art and in your writing. It’s not forced, it just speaks through the stories, dreams, metaphors and archetypes that appear in your art. I really connect to your language, your “dream-speak.”

My art comes from my heart, more than my head.   My feelings and dreams, other places I don’t even know about and can’t describe in words. It’s an internal thing,  and both Jon and Nicole have told me something I feel is true, but it’s so exciting to me that I can’t admit it or quite believe it yet.


12 thoughts on “My Art and Life with Animals Coming Together

  1. Maria, I’m excited for you! As you allow this opening in yourself and share your experience with us on the blog, I at least feel nudged along to pay attention to openings within myself. Which brings us back to portals! Not just portals on quilts and potholders, but portals in our own lives that are openings to new spaces.

    1. Thank you Janet. I’ve found I like nudging people, in what I think are good ways. All kinds of openings, I somehow didn’t think of that.

  2. Maria, when what you create comes from your heart, as I’ve found in your drawings of which I now have three, this is what ‘speaks’ to people. Whether it’s good art or not, when what you make speaks to peoples minds, emotions and their heart, that’s what makes it a good piece of work.

    I’ve just had a wall quilt returned from touring the United States for the past year. It’s about the Sandy Hook Massacre of Dec. 2012. It left me as well as so many others, distraught over what had happened to those small children. What I designed I felt so connected to and still do when I look at the work. I made a deliberate choice to have the quilting behind the central figure quiet, not close and intense as, for me, it would take away from the central image. The critique that came back with it was that there was not enough quilting on the piece. I smiled. What one person creates, another person can miss. Unfortunately artist’s statement allow for only so much room for explanation from the artist. We all see things differently. Your work connects with people and that’s what is important about it. I guess in the end, it’s all about connection in all of life in many different ways.
    Sandy P in Canada

    1. What a frustratingly blind comment for someone to make about your quilt Sandy. But the thing is you have no idea how many people it may have touched traveling around as it did. I agree about what you say about putting your heart into your work. That is what matters most to me. The rest is a technicality.

  3. What a beautiful and pure moment. I’ve also had a recent revelation similar to this. So many things make sense now. I’m trying to gather my heart around it to write about the experience on my blog.

  4. Maria, you actually write about your inability to describe these connections beautifully. It’s interesting that these are longer posts, like the one about Lulu and Fanny. I’ve loved reading them. Was this a surprise to me? Not at all. Yes. I’ve seen it in the pictures. Thanks for writing about it.

  5. I love donkey’s ears ! they are SO expressive. this picture of fanny made me laugh out loud. i can just hear her thinking, “what on earth are these?”

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