morph & grow with us – contemporary sacred art platforms

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The Art Evangelist, formerly a liturgical art advisory, has been growing and changing in ways that are just phenomenal, including a recent relocation from Southwest Florida to Central Connecticut.  So it stands too, that our interests and direction are naturally morphing as we cultivate our passion and draw nearer to what is true, especially now that we are in the Northeast Corridor with much greater access to metropolitan art centers.

We know contemporary and modern interfaith artworks of the sacred lack adequate and original online platforms and traditional physical galleries.  More pointedly, contemporary sacred art lacks advocates who voice the importance of the work, its utility in community and faith, and the challenges within meaning and execution.  Beginning in September 2017, The Art Evangelist will solely concentrate on artists and artworks (based in the US) that seek to channel belief systems, spiritual spark, and inspirationally reflective and unique voices, especially if those voices expand our thinking and understanding.

We warmly invite you to follow us @shaunaleelange on Twitter where we regularly post  about new trends in art and theology.  We also want to host your accomplished artworks on our Instagram @theartevangelist.  Much love to you as you continue to explore what is authentic, what is whole, and what is “love” in your own lives.  As always, you may (without fee) join our global network of art professionals and influential literati at Creative Art Consultants International or email us at shaunaleelange@gmail.com or call 941.875.5190.

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Rise of the Popups: Makeshift Worship Placemaking in a Temporary World (ACS9)

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Shauna Lee Lange of The Art Evangelist  recently presented a research paper, “Rise of the Popups: Makeshift Worship Placemaking in a Temporary World” for the 9th Annual International Symposium of Architecture, Culture, and Spirituality Forum in Deer Isle, Maine (ACS9).

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The event was held at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts near Stonington, Maine.  Over the course of four days, academic papers on architecture, art, and religion were thoughtfully shared with approximately 50 conference attendees, many who are leaders in academic schools of thought within the three disciplines.  Ms. Lange’s paper focuses on the question of how worship space is changing for remote and disenfranchised populations, and how makeshift industry of art and craft contribute to the architecture of pop-up structures.

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The rise of makeshift worship places also causes us to ask new questions about what is sacred, what is meaningful, what is holy, and what constitutes the “space” within worship and faith activities.  Indeed, our defining language is faulty in accurately describing terms such as “worship” and “faith.”  Inspired art and artistry may come to be seen as more pivotal conduits for expression and communication than ever before.

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Ms. Lange forecasts future makeshift creative placemaking for interfaith communities will be increasingly centered on the spiritual and not the spatial, evidenced by a series of current slideshow images of such spaces around the world.  Her paper suggests that if this trend continues, the very foundation of sacred architecture and its tenants may be immensely challenged.

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In addition to scholarly papers, ACS9 hosted a variety of on-site workshops in practice and craft.  An exploration in group consensus line drawing, depth creation, unconscious meaning, and portal exploration was conducted by architect Bill Tripp of Portland, Oregon as a master drawing and sketching facilitator.

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Another workshop was held by a Portland State University professor of architecture, Clive Knights, in monotype printmaking in exploring a range of tones, facility of art production, and industry in meaning.  Participant works were subsequently exhibited.

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Shauna Lee Lange is founder of The Art Evangelist, a full-service art advisory specializing in liturgical arts, sacred spaces, and interfaith creative placemaking. She is also founder of Creative Art Consultants International, a global network of art professionals.

on the practice of simplicity

Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA)

April 24, 2017

By Shauna Lee Lange

 

In the search for simplicity, many of us have tried every time management technique under the sun: itemizing and prioritizing to-do lists; subdividing each day into smaller increments, hoping that small accomplishments will beget larger ones; working through the night according to preferred biorhythms; day planners; Post-it notes; Evernote; and all the apps. Being an organizer is hard. Being an artist is harder. Managing a career with simplicity in a fast-paced world is hardest. The time required to track down calls for art, grants, exhibitions, and more simply flies in the face of true productivity. Life’s complexity often inhibits the faith necessary for art itself.

Steve Loya, Endangered Kingdom meets Splotch Monster Island series, 38: saola (2016-2017). Watercolor, archival pen, and marker, 8.5 x 11 inches.

 

Yet in our efforts to simplify, to zero in on what is truly worthwhile, we also want to get better at the things we care about. We want to improve, work harder and smarter, and dedicate our time and attention to doing our best to be our best. Within the limitations of a 24-hour day, how do we know when we have done enough? Sadly, the effort we expend is not always reflected in the fruit of our labor.

This question of “How do we get better at the things we care about?” was the topic of a recent TED talk by Eduardo Briceño. His quest is to discover the key to using our time and resources effectively for maximum results while avoiding stagnation and expenditure of unproductive energy. Briceño’s answers are found in the practice of deliberately alternating between what he calls the learning zone and the performance zone.

As an illustration of a problem we all share, even while you are reading this essay, in the back of your mind, you may also be thinking of a thousand things you might be doing instead. This is the bane of our age. Information overload, competing demands, limited time, short attention spans, distraction, and self-doubt are the norm. Many of us are torn by these challenges. Do we produce art, look for opportunities, live our lives, get smarter, shut down, hole up?

Steve Loya, Endangered kingdom meets Splotch Monster Island series, 22: blue whale (2016-2017). Watercolor, archival pen, and marker, 8.5 x 11 inches.

 

Enter Briceño. He explains that breaking down activities into deliberate, practice-able components is key—much as it is for many of us in our studios. We have an area for painting, one for framing, one for research and writing. We have learned from experience that simplified studio practice involves ten or twenty minutes of fully concentrated effort on the one thing we are doing at the moment. If we are conducting research, then we should be fully engaged in that task—not simultaneously trying to paint our magnum opus. This is simplified focus, and it is also high performance practice.

Briceño suggests that there is more the performance and learning zones can teach us than simple time allocation. By alternating our zone modes, we pave the way to ever-increasing opportunities to excel. In the learning zone, we can enjoy exploration, play, mistake-making, growth, and trying new things. It is a zone for bewilderment, for the unknown, for embracing failures. The learning zone is all about attempting, testing, and exploring the simple and the complex— without judgment, without overinvestment, without filters. According to Briceño, this concentrated learning leads to enhanced performance.


Steve Loya, Endangered Kingdom meets Splotch Monster Island series, 20: axolotl (2016-2017). Watercolor, archival pen, marker, 8.5 x 11 inches.

 

On the other hand, in the performance zone, we are in the flow—where we do what we do somewhat effortlessly. When we are performing, we are expending all that accumulated learning zone goodness and channeling it into excellence. But because we do not have to worry about learning when we are performing, we are able to resonate with the full force of the performance itself, much as a musician might.

One of the tenets of simplicity is an acute awareness of the time we are active in each of the zones, compartmentalizing our lives in order to maximize the function of each. This effectively disrupts the habit of scattered thinking and (often ineffectual or, at least, dissatisfying) multitasking, as is our accustomed conditioning.

Artist Steve Loya demonstrates this pursuit of simplicity—toggling between learning and performance zones—via the splotch monsters he creates each day. They begin as simple watercolor washes—where he gets to play with paint, color, and form. They end as fantastic, whimsical creatures, bearing the marks of a highly imaginative, skilled illustrator.

The pursuit of real simplicity involves an ongoing editing process, stripping away the excess, the unnecessary, the ineffective, and all that does not fit our goals. In paring these things away, we remember that major change and improvement need not be a total life overhaul. New growth can be attained with slight shifts in perspective, a one- or two-degree repositioning from where we are at any given moment. And, maybe, what is really needed to achieve high performance simplicity is continually embracing the play of learning so that we can better execute—and savor—professional performance.

 

Shauna Lee Lange is the founder of The Art Evangelist, a full-service liturgical art advisory specializing in sacred spaces and creative placemaking. The firm is dedicated to arts immersion as community building. Lange is also the founder of Creative Arts Consultants International, a growing and integrated network of over 18,000 art professionals.

 

Steve Loya maintains his Splotch Monster watercolor blog, complete with process images, at http://asplotchmonsteraday.blogspot.com/. He teaches art and produces artworks in Northern Virginia, where he lives with his wife Kris and a tiny turtle friend Gammera. He can be reached at gotutlepwr@yahoo.com.

the state of recovery in art crime & cultural theft

On the Case

Faith & Form: The Interfaith Journal on Religion, Art, and Architecture

Volume 50, Issue 1 :: Shauna Lee Lange

Solving the theft of art (some of it sacred) around the globe

Caravaggio’s ‘Nativity with Saint Francis and Saint Lawrence’

The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) formed a rapid deployment Art Crime Team in 2004, partly as a result of the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad’s looting problem. Coordinated through the FBI’s Art Theft Program and located in Washington, D.C., special agents and the U.S. Department of Justice enforcers investigate and prosecute art theft within assigned geographic regions. In addition to response teams, the FBI maintains a computerized index and record of reported stolen art and cultural property valued over $2,000, known as the National Stolen Art File (NSAF). People may file online reports at FBI Tips and Public Leads. And the FBI Art Theft News Page offers up-to-date notices and events.

It is estimated that art crime totals between $4 and 6 billion dollars every year, although exact numbers are difficult to find. Much of the stolen work ends up in the US market as art and cultural property. Here, the problem usually centers on residential burglaries for and from private collections. Thefts from houses of worship, museums, archaeological sites, and Native American burial grounds also occur. And although museums and places of worship are among common targets, they are high risk for would-be-thieves, even in countries with no organized art police. According to Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, the Art Theft Program’s manager,

 “There is specialized training involved for the Art Crime Team. We need to get them familiar with the periods of art, the vocabulary of art, art history, but more importantly with the business of art. Most often when we identify stolen art we identify it as it’s coming back into the marketplace.”

Cultural crimes include art thefts, art forgeries, archaeological thefts, and cultural property violations of which theft, fraud, looting, and trafficking stolen art across state and international lines are most common. However, critics of FBI recovery activities cite only a five percent success rate, where world recovery rates are only near ten percent. According to the FBI, Art Crime Team agents receive specialized training in art and culture property investigation and assist in art-related investigations worldwide in cooperation with foreign law enforcement officials and FBI legal attaché offices. Since its inception, the Art Crime Team has recovered nearly 15,000 times valued at more than $165 million.

Interestingly, at the close of last year, just three out of ten of the FBI’s top art crimes originated domestically (listed by date):

  1. Theft of Renoir Oil Painting, Houston, Texas, 2011
  2. Theft from Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, 2007
  3. Theft from the Museu Chacara Do Céu, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, 2006
  4. Iraqi Looted and Stolen Artifacts, Iraq, 2003 (recovered)
  5. Theft of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney Murals, West Hollywood, California, 2002
  6. Van Gogh Museum Robbery, Amsterdam, Holland, 2002 (recovered)
  7. Theft of Cezanne’s “View of Auvers-sur-Oise,” Oxford, England, 1999
  8. Theft of the Davidoff-Morini Stradivarius, New York, New York, 1995 (recovered)
  9. Theft from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, Massachusetts, 1990
  10. Theft of Caravaggio’s “Nativity with Saint Francis and Saint Lawrence,” Palermo, Sicily, 1969

When any US art crime involves international regions, the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducts its expanded mission for Cultural Property, Art and Antiquities Investigations. The U.S. Department of State Cultural Heritage Office protects and preserves ancient and historic monuments, objects, and archaeological sites. Internationally, INTERPOL’s Database of Stolen Works of Art is the go-to resource since 1947, and the United Nations has global databases for national cultural heritage laws, sharing electronic resources and laws on crime, conventions for cultural property protection, and organizations for drugs and crime.

Art crimes and illicit trafficking of cultural property lead the news in emergency actions in Syria and Iraq for man-made disasters, and in Haiti and Italy for naturally occurring ones. Looting of art and cultural property during war and conflict continues to be a significant international problem. Art crime expands and strengthens in spite of difficulties in liquidating works, hiding works for unknown futures, or challenges with underground offerings.

Certain regions, including Europe, Latin America, Middle East, North and Sub-Saharan Africa, and South East Asia are particularly victim to art crime, likely due to the ease of undetected cross-border travel and the lack of integrated international statistics and sophisticated recovery efforts. Types of preferred stolen objects vary from country to country. Paintings, sculptures, statues, and religious items are highly sought. Archaeological pieces, antiquarian books, antique furniture, coins, weapons and firearms, or ancient gold and silverware are also coveted. Worldwide, the most prevailing type of art crime is counterfeit and fraudulent works resulting from technological advancements.

In June 2017, the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art (ARCA) will hold its 8th Annual Interdisciplinary Art Crime Conference in Amelia, Italy. ARCA is a research and outreach organization working to promote the study and research of art crime and cultural heritage protection. The conference serves as a forum to explore the role of detection, crime prevention, and criminal justice responses to combat all forms of art crime and illicit trafficking in cultural property at both the international and domestic levels.

Resources

  • Art Claim: Art Recovery International stolen art registry (artclaim.com).
  • Art Loss Register:  London-based registry of lost or stolen artworks and owned possessions containing over 200,000 records (artloss.com/en).
  • The Central Registry of Information on Looted Cultural Property 1933-1945:  Lootedart.com registry includes two databases: (1) the Object Database of over 25,000 missing assets; and (2) the Information Database, that contains laws, policies, reports, archival records, and more from over 49 countries.
  • Chasing Aphrodite:  By the authors of “Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World’s Richest Museum,” this blog reports on various incidents of art theft, fraud, and looting (chasingaphrodite.com).
  • The Documentation Project:  The Project for the Documentation of Wartime Cultural Losses provides information on art and cultural property displaced during wartime with a focus on World War II (docproj.loyola.edu).
  • Georgetown Law Library: Small microfilm collection (Art Looting and Nazi Germany) of administrative documents related to the recovery of art and other cultural objects during and after World War II.
  • Holocaust-Era Assets (NARA):  The US National Archives and Records Administration Holocaust-Era Assets (archives.gov/research/holocaust).
  • Illicit Cultural Property:  This blog provides regular updates on thefts, antiquities looting, and legal developments in the field (illicitculturalproperty.com).
  • International Council of Museums: Lists of objects particularly susceptible to theft and looting are known as ICOM Red Lists for various locations (icom.museum).
  • Museum Security Network: Covers news about art thefts, recoveries, and other news related to art crime (museum-security.org/).
  • Object ID: The international standard for describing cultural objects in order to facilitate their identification (Interpol.int/crime-areas/works-of-art/object-id).
  • Stolen Art Alert – IFAR Journal: Each issue of the IFAR Journal includes a Stolen Art Alert.  Published since 1977, the alert contains information on thefts reported by owners and insurance companies to the Art Loss Register, police, the FBI, Interpol, and other organizations (ifar.org/publications-stolen-art-alert.php).

The Art Evangelist, founded by Shauna Lee Lange, is a full-service art advisory specializing in liturgical, religious, spiritual, and visionary art for interfaith creative placemaking and sacred spaces. Featured artwork by Caravaggio is sourced from the public realm.

 

art for refugees in transition

Art for Refugees

Painter Jason John’s ‘Don’t Worry Ricder’
Painter Jason John’s ‘Don’t Worry Ricder’ seems to capture the sense of displacement and unease experienced by many refugees.  This portrait suggests a contemporary saint.

Art for Refugees

Faith & Form: The Interfaith Journal on Religion, Art, and Architecture

Volume 50, Issue 1 :: Shauna Lee Lange

New York-based Sara Green was an international professional dancer for over a decade. In 1999, when her change-of-career leanings coincided with the Balkan Yugoslavia crisis, she knew she wanted to help people. Her brother, a war correspondent and journalist, told Green that he kept seeing and hearing of children left to the unrelenting winter mountains. How could she be of help to them, she wondered. Green knew that to truly effect change, she would need additional communication skills, credentials, and an influential network beyond her education in art and history. This led to her earning an MBA in finance and economics from the Columbia University Graduate School of Business.

Green’s seed idea, which continues to be supported by educators, was to develop an educational curriculum for internally displaced refugees. Her unique and cross-modal organization, known as Art for Refugees in Transition, helps elders transfer cultural traditions top down, and assists children in retaining knowledge from the bottom up. The program teaches refugees how to teach about cultural traditions, not what to teach, during a two-to-five-year incubation period with an end goal for self-sustainability.

Green is a healer and a builder. She seeks to restore individual self-worth, community self-identification, and intergenerational relationships through cultural exchange. Her work has taken the organization to Northern Thailand, Colombia, Egypt, and Jordan in partnership with hosting groups.

In 2007, Green attempted an “Art for Refugees” program in New Haven, Connecticut, and in Ithaca, New York, for resettled refugees, and found her efforts to reach disenfranchised populations in the US took on a very different post-emergency role. She says agencies are generally overwhelmed with meeting essential survival needs such as food, water, shelter, safety, and medical care. Art for Refugees in Transition’s curriculum is often last on a long list of emergent acculturation and integration issues. Where she’s considered art applications for indigenous peoples, she’s encountered an established hierarchy incongruent with her model and traditions unwelcoming to outsiders.

Green believes that in working with refugees, either in the US or abroad, one must be vigilant about not becoming what she describes as voyeurs or users.

“To abuse the rights of refugees as a people is to abuse who they are,” she says. “While we are seeking to protect their cultural tenants, we must not do so from ‘The Great American’ point of view. We must not look down on the most vulnerable. Our work should be for them, by them, to them, and with them. In this soul work, we must not make others our poster children.”

Largely supported by charitable grants and philanthropic gifting, Green is now looking to marry Art for Refugees with larger refugee plans inherent in Mercy Corps, Red Cross, or like-minded NGO relief programs. She seeks openings for inclusion into a larger playbook with a wider reach. You can learn more about the program and contact Green at: artforrefugees.org.

writing from faith & life: tips for the artist’s personal essay

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Today we joined Leadership Education at Duke Divinity in Durham, NC in “Writing from Your Life of Faith,” with Sally Hicks, Editor of Faith and Leadership and manager of the publication’s Twitter account.  For many years, Hicks was a newspaper reporter and journalist who did her trench writing amidst endless looming deadlines.  She found writing group critiques as effective vehicles for personal journalism prior to becoming an editor.

The session was monitored by the Rev. Nathan E. Kirkpatrick, Managing Director, Alban at Duke Divinity School.  Hicks asked participants to read two personal essay works for comparison and contrast in advance of the session, both works were heavily quoted as examples in getting to the heart of a story.

The Secret by Kate Bowler

How my grandmother’s story helped me lead as an African-American woman by Debora Jackson

Writing was presented as an essential element and act of leadership and faith.  Through writing we handle change and conflict.  We find ways to express deep longing and need. We are able to find resolution and reflection.   Here are Ms. Hicks’ key points for personal essay writing from faith:

Make a single point well.

Stay sharply focused for essays of 1,000 words.  Identify the main idea with an attention-getting focus.  Have a clear vision and a clear writing style to keep the reader engaged.  Where is your beginning?  What are you motivated by?  Are you trying to make a point or is there some other intent?  Is the story you are trying to tell more than an anecdote?  Where is the point of change or what has occurred that you wish to relate?  Engage readers on a human level.  Note who your actors are, what your illustrations are.  Commonalities exist between a sermon and a personal essay.  The sermon usually emanates from scriptural text, preached to a similar weekly audience, less likely to be generated from personal experience.

Write in your own voice.

The key to the personal essay is that it is personal.  Write in the first person, from your own life.  The personal is the universal.  A personal and unique story touches an audience.  Consider in what way the stories of your life bear witness to the ongoing development of art or faith in your world.  By doing so, we equip readers to gauge their own growth.  Often, the honest and searing truth of reality is more effective and less self-indulgent than we might think.  On Writing Well was cited as a useful reference.  Speak about yourself in a manner that is not abstract or theoretical.  Use author Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir  tips for carnal detailing and uniqueness in bringing stories to life.  Claim your own voice by establishing an element of authority by giving a reader a reason to trust you and believe you know what you’re talking about.  Write humbly, mitigate tone, share your own breathiness.

Leadership literature From Good to Great was also cited.  Humor and self-deprecation are effective tools for socially relevant works.  Stories do not need to be dramatic to be worth telling.  For example, nature writers find the work of God in a single leaf unfolding.  Think about your definition of a powerful or important stories.  Is childbirth any less significant than war? In balancing humor, snarkiness, and sarcasm, Karr was quoted as saying, “Make sure you’re harder on yourself than anyone else in your story.”  Hicks recommends having the confidence to know that if you are personally interested in a story, it is likely that there is something there.  She calls this “faith” in pushing ahead, hopefully with a good editor in your back pocket.  As to timeline in reflecting when there has been enough passage of time to tell a story that impacts others’ lives, one must consider priorities and boundaries.

Karr allows her real-life characters some agency in choosing their own pseudonyms or composites.  Be aware of sensitivities.  Edit your personal details to deflect and obfuscate individual identities where prudent.  Your editor is your collaborator in publishing the best work possible for the publication, always read the publication, seek out the publication style guidelines and read them if you want to write.  Perfect your query pitch as a short and sweet introduction to you and your idea, exemplary of your writing.

Polish for publication.

Turn in clean copy.  Check for typos and grammatical matters.  Errors happen.  Watch for them.  As a rule, don’t present something as true that is not.  Watch your fact-massaging as standard ethical practice.  Fact check.  Print out a hard copy to affirm individual statements, especially in an era of misinformation.  Write to length, writing something short is actually harder than writing something long.  Writing too long is asking an editor to do your work for you.  Write to deadlines as basic professionalism.  Communicate appropriately for submission of unsolicited pieces or pitches.  Wait before bugging editors.  Once you have an assignment, stay in reasonable touch with an editor if you have questions or if there is some focus change.  One’s writing voice develops consistently as one writes.

Faith and Leadership looks for works that help practitioners of faith do their jobs well.   Writing classes and workshops with peer writers and leaders can afford feedback for developing writers.  What’s most important is attentiveness, slowing down, being open to experiences, having an attitude of prayer, recognizing connections, and looking for the unexpected.  Have an imagination for what’s already happening around you.  Use writing as a cathartic way to process experiences that are difficult to let go, Hicks recommends blurting out a first draft without editing too early in your thought process.

lisasaint
Lisa Saint (2011)

A recording is available here or copying this link into your internet browser — https://dukeuniversity.webex.com/dukeuniversity/ldr.php?RCID=dd3cf34421f2515ec4ac828939792636

Sally Hicks can be reached by email at hicks@div.duke.edu or Nathan Kirkpatrick at nek@duke.edu.

Shauna Lee Lange is the founder of The Art Evangelist, a full-service Liturgical Art Advisory specializing in sacred spaces, public places, and creative placemaking.  941.875.5190 

In Review: Michael Singer, The Untethered Soul

IN REVIEW: Michael Singer, The Untethered Soul

By Shauna Lee Lange

While living in Tampa, Florida, in the early 1990s, our family suffered an all-consuming house fire. Poof. Everything instantly burnt to embers. Even still today, it’s hard to reconcile the fact that one’s reality can be dismantled so abruptly. How can a singular incident alter so much of what we know and trust and believe? In the physical sense, at that moment, I lost my United States military uniform, a testament I’d hoped to pass down to my children as a heritage and legacy. In the spiritual sense, I have now gained acceptance and friendship with the transitory. The gift of that fire was in the understanding and knowledge that all that ever really lasts, all that really ever matters, is love.

Singer - 1Author Michael Singer would agree. In his 2015 publication The Surrender Experiment (Harmony Books), Singer speaks of the spiritual liberation of deep inner surrender, especially in the midst of life’s extraordinary events. While I was still reflecting on this, out of nowhere, my brother’s ex-wife sent me a copy of Singer’s 2007 seminal work, The Untethered Soul (New Harbinger Publication/Noetic Books). Her gracious gift exemplifies the subtitle: The Journey Beyond Yourself. It is this unhitching, unfastening, and unleashing that speaks especially to creative and spiritual people. “Untethering” represents an intentional and purposeful disconnecting from security for the sake of something grander.

We want to cling to the familiar, you know. As such, though its application is still valid ten years after initial publication, The Untethered Soul was a bit of a philosophical reach for me. Although I admire the merits of free-flowing yogadic meditation methods, I tend to prefer the directed visio divina (divine seeing) for demystifying life’s questions. Yet, I am mindful of the words of Lesslie Newbigin in Foolishness to the Greeks: “The fact that Jesus is much more than our culture-bound vision of him can only come home to us through the witness of those who see him through other eyes.”[1] And so, as I continue my search, as an artist and believer, to find the best methods to tap into the divine and unlock the secret regions of the heart, I work, play, pray, and make art.

Artists often enhance our prayer life through creative expression and channel our inspiration into physical products, as a form of witness and communication. Singer would say that even this busy-ness, this work, even this can be a form of attachment. Further, our attempts at self-medication, preservation, protection, and insulation are all efforts at not feeling too much. Likewise, neurosis, self-doubt, worry, and confusion keep us at the center of our own manufactured worlds.

Maybe you have found the slow and intentional practice that leads to true co-creation as a godly artist. Looking with God’s eyes, bringing life to his plan for beauty, submitting to his leadership and will, pursuing a heart of purity, and healing others are proven pathways to intimacy with God. If we ask what it is to create, what is the true meaning of the sacred, and ultimately what is holy, Singer would say the answers can be found only when we relax and release.

The Untethered Soul divides a stream-of-consciousness writing style into five concrete sections. In “Awakening Consciousness,” we’re asked about our internal voices and prompted to truly answer the “Who Are You?” questions. In “Experiencing Energy,” we’re reminded of the Infinite Source and asked not to close our hearts to the undesirable in life. In “Freeing Yourself,” Singer compares a rose’s thorns to our fear of personal pain in moving toward true freedom. “Going Beyond” encourages us to pursue a lifelong practice of dismantling walls and letting go of false solidity. Finally, in “Loving Life,” we are reminded that death is our constant, faithful companion and teacher. By employing a Taoist stance of “finding the center of all experience,” we can be helped in regulating life’s extremes.

After the house fire, everything was a confused uncertainty. Ours was a suspected arson, and I found myself shutting down and turning off with friends and family. Those were dark vertigo days of imbalance and clouded thought. I remember thinking that the only thing I really wanted from life (beyond immediate answers) was to feel joy, enthusiasm, and love again. The details, the paperwork, the investigations became overwhelming. At a certain point, when I couldn’t stop the speeding train, I just sort of decided to let this situation take place and be there with it because I really had no other choice. Singer would call this approach, sitting in the seat of consciousness. A thought or emotion emerges, you notice it, and it passes because you allow it to, rather than clinging to it.

This technique of semi-detachment has facilitated my art practice since, as well. If the spiritual journey is one of constant transformation, so is the artistic one. We wish to give up the struggle of remaining the same, and we seek to embrace change. But the journey is often, if not always, one we must take alone. Singer writes:

You see, loneliness is just like a thorn. It causes pain and disturbance in all aspects of your life. But in the case of the human heart, we have more than one thorn. We have sensitivities about loneliness, about rejection, about our physical appearance, and about our mental prowess. We are walking around with lots of thorns touching right against the most sensitive parts of our heart. At any moment something can touch them and cause pain inside.

If we can get to the stage of being okay with everything, that’s the time everything will be okay. When we embrace the natural unfolding of life, analytical angst can be transformed into open-hearted observation, where we recognize, acknowledge, and let each moment pass, not denying the pain or discomfort, but in recognition that each moment will pass, and that peace and joy may be found on the other side of turmoil. This can only occur when we give up clinging and attachment by untethering.

You may protest that it is hard to let go. Believe me, I know, but there can be joy in sailing free in unchartered waters. There is light, love, compassion, joy, and protection in yielding to the Holy Spirit. One way to do that is by remaining quietly in the center of each event, buoyed by the awareness that it will pass. The free soul is the happy soul, one that accepts it all—good or bad, painful or joyful—embracing a journey beyond oneself.

The Untethered Soul is accompanied by online resources including a reading guide, video clips, and recorded talks with Michael Singer.

[1] Lesslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988).


Shauna Lee Lange is the founder of The Art Evangelist, a full-service liturgical art advisory specializing in sacred, visionary, and interfaith art. The firm is dedicated to arts immersion in sacred spaces, public places, and creative placemaking. Lange is also the founder of Creative Arts Consultants International, a growing global network of over 18,000 art professionals.