Intentional Creativity has art ancestors the world over, as all ancient peoples created some kind of art with mindful intention. Whether that be for usefulness, beauty or story, they brought their consciousness into their art.
Honoring Art Ancestors
Today is the anniversary of my teacher’s passing. Her name is Sue Hoya Sellars. The Brush with Healing Movie, is dedicated to this work – and the ideas we have worked with for most of our lives, rooted in the idea of mindful creating.
Disclaimer – The movie is years in the making, still has mistakes and issues, and isn’t a real ‘movie ‘ or short film. It is an act of love and sharing my beautiful community.
In our specific story of Intentional Creativity, we have a lineage of women who practiced this mindfulness in a specific way with image and language. Lenore Thomas Straus (1909-1988) who worked with the Roosevelts on giant stone sculptures articulating ideas like – what does the Preamble to the Constitution look like in stone? And then carved it. Lenore, who was the guardian and mentor of Sue Hoya Sellars (1936-2014), my teacher.
Sue would go on to inform the work of all the women in our family starting in the mid-sixties. I was born in 70 so her influence was well woven into our lives by the time I came onto the scene. Most of the women in my family are artists and teachers in our own right, however, influenced by Sue in immeasurable ways about our approach to working. Whether that was working in clay or paint, or working on the land with the animals. My cousin Bridget founded a Montesorri School, my aunt Janet, is a sculptor, potter and runs a women ‘s Tai Chi School, my sister Shannon is a writer, advocate and in the music business, and my mother Caron is a poet, designer, painter and teacher. All of us in service to art, creativity and advocacy in some way. Each of us having students, each of us becoming teachers and guides to support others on their path. I would go on to create a school to certify teachers in Intentional Creativity, called Color of Woman, named after my first book and first gallery.
Our family connection with Sue goes further back in a interesting weave of fate – as before we ever met Sue, she studied at the College of Marin. My grandmother on my father’s side, Helen, gave Sue continual enrollment in the pottery program. For years. Sue credited my grandmother with giving her a space to work and develop her own work. After I was born, Sue would discover the woman who was my grandmother was the same woman who had served her in her time of need. Many ancestral layers to reveal.
In my early twenties I embarked on a major mentorship with Sue that started with a year, and continues to this day. She would teach me what Lenore taught her, to bring the deepest prayer into our work. In my case, I would bring the ideas of Intentional Creativity to hundreds of thousands of people in my career as an artist and a teacher. Indeed, a return to an idea, whose time has come again. In my mentorship we worked with clay, wood, metal, pen and ink, and paint. She would invite me to bring my prayers into whatever I was working on – and to believe it was going out into the world towards my intention. Hence, the birth of Intentional Creativity on the land in Mendocino our family still stewards to this day.
Sue was a fine artist, in that she studied painting. I would not do as well as she hoped in my skill, yet I had what she called ‘a way of working’. She often laughed that my style of painting was ‘drive by painting’ – too quick and cavalier for her chop wood carry water approach to making art. Of course, there is always the regret that I didn ‘t study with her more in art, but then there is the celebration that we taught together for over 15 years, serving women in our community of Cosmic Cowgirls. And deeply developing the language and understand of art as a tool for consciousness.
Since Sue passed, three years ago this month, my husband Jonathan and I have been on an excavation journey to discover more about Sue and her way of working, and a deepened interest in the impact Lenore had. In 2015, we traveled to Maryland to the Greenbelt Museum to see Lenore’s show, a piece of my art was included, as well as a piece by Sue, to demonstrate what the Greenbelt Museum calls, ‘enduring influence.’
Today I got the gift of speaking to Lenore’s daughter, Nora, and learned of her love of Sue. Lenore became the guardian of Sue as a teen, rescuing her from severe poverty and hardship, and bringing her into a life of studying art, philosophy, literature, music and culture – and Sue would earn her way through being the babysitter. Nora said that she adored Sue, and was very protective of her, and good with children, and that she was devastated when Sue left for San Francisco. Each clue feels like a blessing, another thread in the weaving of this great work I am called to and that I call others to as well. I was so glad to hear that Nora, had a few of Sue’s pieces.
In my research today I came across this excerpt from renowned author, Doris Grumbach, when she came across a quote by Lenore in a book at a friend ‘s house in Maine.
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I am back at work culling material for this memoir from my notebook of last summer. At Peggy Danielson’s house in East Blue Hill, where I tried to bury all thoughts of my seventieth birthday, I found a prayer the sculptor Lenore Thomas Straus had use to conclude her book on the process of creating a stone statue, now standing in Norway:
hold my hand
holds the tool’
Without using those precise words, I often find myself praying similarly before I sit down with my clipboard. Substitute “pen” for “tool”.
Peggy told me that in the last few days of Lenore’s life, when she was dying of cancer, she worked on tiny wax sculptures. Much reduced in size from her customary larger-than-life- heads, these little figures contrasted significantly with her heroic stones, signifying not just the diminution in her energies but her sense of how little was left to her life. Never once, having been compelled almost to give up her hold on life, did she abandon her art.
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I share this with you today, as part of my own ongoing journey to explore legacy, my part in preserving it, and my responsibility to it. As I ponder this, I think, I could spend a lifetime researching this and I have my own art to make…should I not be focusing on that more? And my answer is there, right there. Through exploring the art ancestors that made it possible for me to do this work, I am indeed deepening in my own art and my capacity to tend it in sacred manner. I rather fancy the idea of creating a Museum of Intentional Art. One must consider the ideas that light up the soul, and this does. Intentional Creating is the most potent practice I have seen to awaken consciousness. And by all means, let us proceed to wake up.
Sue and Lenore both passed at the age of 78, creating art up into the very last second. They were so identified with their art that it was the center point of every relationship. I hope I live long enough to bring my great work out, and to honor these mighty women and my mother, Caron McCloud. I am so grateful to have had these women as my teachers and know that I would not be where I am today without their work – their dedication, suffering and the beauty they bring forth in their creations.
There is still much to be written and created about in regards to Intentional Creativity – and I am at the easel and workbench continually in that ecstatic struggle to create what is possible. To be the tool itself, used by Creator.
And may I, like Lenore, and Sue, remember to request, that a force greater than I understand, hold my hand as I hold the tools that shape the future.
May you find the prayer for your own ‘way of working’ that nourishes your soul.
~ Shiloh Sophia
Lenore Thomas Straus 1909-1988
Sue Hoya Sellars 1936-2014
Alice Walker and Sue Hoya Sellers
In gratitude for sacred work
I spread out my hands in thanksgiving
For all that have gone before and all
that will come afterward,
thank you, thank you, thank you.
Blessings to you right where you are. Today I am sharing threads of my story with you and what has shaped my world. I hope you find it interesting :)
I would just like to offer up a humble praise for my life and the sacred work I am blessed to bring forth with Intentional Creativity.
I was recently asked by a Color of Woman applicant – what do the graduates do afterward? After telling her about how close to 150 of us who have stayed connected in the Intentional Creativity Guild – I began to list just a few of the places our worldwide community have served:
Women ‘s Health Centers
Foster Care Offices for Social Work and Kids
Cancer and Aids Clinics
Lyme Disease Support Groups
Churches and Temples
Native American Services
Elder Care Centers
Pre-Schools, High Schools
Universities (including Phd programs)
and the list goes on….
It felt so good just to say those words – and to give back in so many ways.
I am grateful to my teachers, especially my mom Caron McCloud and Sue Hoya Sellars. And to my friends who I get to work with for so many years, Jenafer Owen and Mary MacDonald to make Color of Woman School for Intentional Creativity a reality. And to my community of Cosmic Cowgirls and the Intentional Creativity Guild. And to my dear husband, Jonathan who came into our lives in 2012 and has not ceased to bless our community with his gifts.
The grieving continues in the strangest of ways. I continue to hold vigil in my heart for my dear teacher. The person who made me feel so special, so loved and so nurtured and who fostered by creativity in a potent way.
May we continue to serve and further the work of Intentional Creativity.
Blessings to each of you and your sacred work and thank you for being a part of this thread.
Sue and Shiloh making clay, 1993 Terra Sophia
Angel Painting by Sue
May LOVE be at the CENTER of all CHOICES