Today’s a different kind of episode. I had an idea recently and wanted to experiment with something new…
I went back to the Dallas Museum of Art to revisit Nauline Pierre’s exhibit. Why? I want to look at the same artwork again and again to see what new lessons I get out of it and how the artwork grows and changes as I grow and change.
And I want you along for the ride to see what that looks like in practice. I’m not just recalling my experience but also giving you a true taste of it in the immediate aftermath. So in this episode, I’ve captured my fresh thoughts and perspectives on Pierre’s exhibit, from the comfort of my car outside the museum.
5:59 – Describing the next painting in the story of the falling woman, Power Within
9:14 – Why one particular angel in this artwork resonated with me so much
12:28 – Describing Pierre’s Hereafter, Ye Shall Be Changed and the storyline I see within it
14:49 – How this painting reflects my own life right now
19:01 – New insights gained, a couple of days later
23:52 – Why I wanted to do an episode like this and create the Art Connection Circle
27:01 – The three things necessary to treat something like art as a sacred act
- Art Connection Circle
- Naudline Pierre episodes with Madalyn: episodes 91 and 92
- Episode 81: “Treating Text and Art as a Sacred Practice for Growth with Vanessa Zoltan”
- Praying with Jane Eyre by Vanessa Zoltan
Be a Podcast Guest: Submit a Voice Memo of Your Art Story (Scroll to the bottom of the page to submit your story.)
Hello and welcome to You Need Art. I am Cindy Ingram, your host and the founder of Art Class Curator, The Curated Connections Library, and The Art Connection Circle. This is the podcast where we connect with the human spirit and our deepest selves through the power of art. Art is here for you as a catalyst, a challenger, a coach, and a comfort. Before we get started, take a moment and fill your lungs with a deep breath, relax your shoulders, and get ready to discover what art has to teach you.
Hello everybody. This is Cindy Ingram from You Need Art. I am here for a different type of podcast today. I am trying a new experiment. I had the idea recently that I wanted to try going back and looking at the same artwork again and again, and seeing what new lessons it gives me and seeing how the artwork grows as I grow, how the artwork changes as I change, and what that would actually look like in practice. I am starting that experiment today and I have just visited the Dallas Museum of Art. I chose the Dallas Museum of Art because it has the most consistent exhibits, and it has a permanent collection that remains pretty stable. It also has a lot of options for me because it’s a bigger museum. It’s also just very convenient for parking. I joined the membership and they have a parking garage, I don’t have to worry about going downtown and finding a spot. I don’t have to worry about going to a college campus and dealing with parking. Just overall, it’s the easiest and most convenient option for me from where I live. It’s still about a 45-minute drive but it’s not too bad.
What I’ve done today is I have gone to the Naudline Pierre exhibit. You have heard about that artwork in the two-part episode that I did with Madalyn in December and we really loved that exhibit and had such a powerful experience with it and had a powerful experience talking about it together for the podcast. I thought it would be an awesome exhibit to start with for this project that I am embarking on. Today is December the 3rd and that is a couple weeks before the Naudline Pierre podcast episode even gets published, so we’re back in time right now for when you’re listening to this and I had just seen the exhibit for the first time about two weeks ago. I typically go to the art museum every two weeks and most of the time, I go with Madalyn. We go to different art museums in the area. I live in the Dallas Fort Worth area, we have tons of art museums, a lot of opportunities for different special exhibits and permanent collections too, that I hold dear.
I just saw it two weeks ago, and had a conversation with Madalyn about this artwork just a few days ago. Today’s Friday, we had our interview on Tuesday, so it’s really fresh on my mind. I was curious about what that would mean for looking at the artwork again since I did just spend an hour and a half talking with her about the art. You’ll also notice that my audio quality is different for this series because I want to capture my thoughts fresh from my mind. I’m actually using my airpods and talking to you from the car—which I know the perfectionist in me is just about dying at that—but I do want to catch my reactions fresh, I want to make sure that I’m not just recalling my experience but I’m actually giving you a true taste of my experience.
I am not a churchgoer, and I am viewing this not as going to church but as a spiritual practice, as something that I can spend time sinking my teeth into, time to spend reflecting on me and my place in the world, reflecting on things bigger than me at the same time, and really connecting also with my humanity. To me, there’s no better place to do that than at an art museum. That’s where I’m so comfortable. It’s where I feel most connected. It’s where I feel my heart wide open. I just really love being in the art museum. I headed over to the DMA and I visited the exhibit. I didn’t think that I would have a particularly emotional experience since I had just had that experience talking with Madalyn about the artwork for an hour and a half just this week. I just saw the exhibit and I was like, “Is this going to be worthwhile? Am I going to get something out of this?” But I really did. My goal was to spend at least 30 minutes in the exhibit and there’s one room and there’s only 10 paintings in the exhibit. I didn’t give myself any rules on any particular time at any one artwork. I just allowed myself to do what I wanted.
Once I was there, I tried to listen to music when the Wi-Fi wouldn’t work and all my music wasn’t downloaded, so that was a bummer, but I put on my headphones that have noise canceling. That was nice to go inward a little bit more. There were a lot of people in the exhibit, which I was pleased by. I always like to see people looking at art. There’s a lot of people coming in and out. I spent the most time looking at probably about five. I looked at the ones that we talked about for the podcast. The one was called Lest You Fall and the other one is called Hold On, Hold Tight. Those are the two that we talked about in the podcast.
I enjoyed looking at those again. But since I just spent so much time looking at them, I spent most of my time looking at what I thought to be the next one in line. They feel like to me, they’re telling one big story—we talked about that in the episode—but they’re telling the story of this one woman and she’s falling in the one. Then the angels are protecting her. There is a second one where they’re holding her. This one is called the Power Within. It, to me, is what happens next. In the one where they’re holding her, she’s glowing, she’s got light emanating from her face. She’s being supported and comforted but she’s almost brimming with power. She’s really bright and hot looking. She’s got flames on her feet and there are flames surrounding her in the fall as well. There are flames in both of them. But in this one, she has taken flight so she’s no longer falling. She’s no longer being supported physically but she has become powerful. She has grown wings. She is flying and she is harnessing the power of fire. The fire is not overtaking her, it is being controlled by her. It’s this angle of her where if you’re looking at a person from above and they’re looking up at you so you see her breasts, you see her hands, and you see her face, you don’t really see her full body. Her hands are coming together in this, like if you were to pretend to hold a beach ball or a basketball or something, and it wasn’t actually there but you’re pretending, that’s what it was like. She was holding this energetic space and then there were flames all wrapped up in it. Not wrapped up in it but it’s like she’s holding a ball of flame basically and her fingers were also flamed.
Now, this is being recorded with me not actually looking at it, so this is all from memory at this point. She has taken on the power of all of her spirit guides. They have supported her. She has worked on herself. She has filled up her heart with power and love. It is like she is channeling it. It’s really beautiful and it’s really powerful to me. She is like this beautiful plum purpley color and her face is very focused. In a lot of the other paintings, her face is glowing or it’s emitting light rays, and this one, her face isn’t doing that but her whole body is purple and her wings are this really dark purple and I really love that’s one of my favorite colors, that plum purple. I loved seeing that.
Then above her, there are five different angels, I don’t know the exact number, there are some angels underneath her and they’re flying up above her. They all have different facial expressions and then there was one in particular that had a really powerful expression to me. She has these flames coming out of her eyes down onto her cheeks. It’s just like a line drawing but it almost looks like a line drawing of tears, but at the same time, it’s flames. Then she’s like a bright red and to me she just is so striking. It made me think about past versions of myself and all of the parts of me that have led to me being where I am today. I really resonated with that particular spirit or angel or whatever you want to call her, because I felt like you could see her struggle, you can see her pain, and you can see the power that she has in her but she hasn’t yet learned to channel it. You learn to control it and learn to really let herself be who she is again.
This is my interpretation of this artwork. This is how I experienced it today. Every day, I look at these artworks, I’m sure I will experience something completely different, or not different, but will feed off of each other. I spent a lot of time looking at her and then a lot of time just feeling into the power that’s within myself because to be honest, I’ve had a really rough year, 2021 has been really hard. I don’t know when you’re listening to this, it’s probably not published until 2022, but 2021 has been a year of tremendous pain and growth, at the same time, mental and emotional struggles and things like that. A lot of work on myself and healing and all the things. I feel like in a way, I lost a little bit of myself in 2021. I lost my footing. I couldn’t quite figure out my place. I couldn’t quite figure out what I wanted. It was a big transition year for me.
As I’m looking to the new year, I’m imagining and reconnecting with who I want to be, reconnecting with who I want to be in the future, and who I’ve been in the past, what do I need to let go of, and what do I need to embrace in my future. This was a really good time for me to be looking at this type of artwork because in the past, I have felt really connected with that Power Within, and lately, I have not been as connected to it. I feel like this is a perfect group of artworks to come back to as I work to reclaim my power and reclaim who I am. Not that I’ve lost myself completely, but that I just faltered this year. This year has just been rough. I also spent time with one called Hereafter, Ye Shall Be Changed. I didn’t know when I looked at it where this one particularly fit into the story until I sat with it for a while.
In this one, the main protagonist woman is sitting in the center of the painting. It’s propped in really close and then she’s sitting and she’s got two of the angels around her; one behind her and one in front of her. They both have their wings around her so she is in the middle. They are not hugging her but they’re really close to her. She has her hand up like a mudra from like Hindu art. It’s got the palm facing forward. At one point in my life, I would have known what that symbolized. I’d have to look it up but she’s got her hands up and her hand around it is glowing red with some flames forming. It looks like her hand is not on fire but there is fire emanating from her hand just slightly. Her body is this purplish gray, mostly gray, but the top of her head is a more purplish, maroonish type of color. It’s like she’s got that fire coming from her head too, but it’s not like full-on glowing like it is in some of the other artworks of hers. The title is Hereafter, Ye Shall Be Changed. This to me is them, is probably in this storyline after they caught her, after she fell, after they caught her but before she took flight and harnessed the fire, this is her learning to and practicing her power. She’s practicing the fire, learning how to harness it, learning how to channel it, learning how to control it. She’s doing it in this beautiful safe space, this beautiful protective cocoon of these beautiful angels around her.
I was so enraptured and enchanted by this because that felt to me more of where I am in my personal life. I feel like this year, I’ve had a fall, I had a big fall. I had a moment. I had a few months of nurturing myself, protecting myself, cocooning myself like the second one where they’re holding her. Now I’m working on getting myself out of it and learning where to go next, what to be next, and how to be what I am. All of that, but I’m doing it in a way that I still have to be really soft and tender with myself and I still have to be really gentle and nourishing because I’m still really raw from this year that I’ve had.
These artworks reminded me of the support systems that I do have in place that I have built a life where I am surrounded by people that I love, I am surrounded by support that can build me up, that can wrap around me, that can allow me the space and create the space for me to flourish and create the space for me to find my power again and to learn how to channel it and learn how to create that fire without getting burned. That’s where I am at right now, is in this painting. I read the label and it was talking about this moment of transformation, this moment of she’s not going to be the same anymore from here on out. I feel like that’s where I am at right now in my life, that I’m at a turning point. Next year, in two years, and five years, I’m going to look back at this time and I’m going to remember where I was. That was my first experience in this new project of going back again and seeing the same art again and again.
I don’t know if it’s going to be every month or if it’s ever going to be every two weeks, probably every month where I’ll go back until the exhibit closes, which is in May. That means I get to go at least five more times to experience this exhibit and to see what other beautiful insights that it has for my life. I want to thank you for listening because I know that you’re hearing me tell a story about my own life and you’re hearing me talk about what I got out of the artwork, but I truly believe that this experience is hearing how other people relate to art and how other people make those connections can help you also make connections for yourself with works of art, how you can learn from that. I’m sure if one person gets one inside about their own life or their own connection with art, then this experience will be a successful one. Honestly, if no one gets anything out of it, it’s still a successful one because it is transforming me as well. As always, the artwork that I talk about on the episode will be available at the show notes.
If you go over to artclasscurator.com/podcast, you can find the show notes and that will have the images from the exhibit that I took. Of course, don’t look at them while you’re driving. Please be safe. That is important. Thank you so much for listening to this recording. I know the audio quality is not as good as it typically is but it felt important to me to capture this information while it was fresh in my head, capture these connections while I was still considering them. It also really helped me to verbally process the experience as well. I think that has helped it become a deeper experience just through talking about it. I want to add on a little to this recording but I’m going to do the rest of it at home with my regular mic so here it is.
I am back. I’m at home. I am in my office in my quiet house. Hopefully, that sound quality was okay for you. It’s Monday now. I recorded the first part of that on Friday and I want to share what new insights have come up since Friday. What is really exciting for me about this work is that it doesn’t stop once you leave the museum, once you leave the art experience, once you’re “done” looking at and connecting with the art, things will resonate. They’ll stick around, they’ll keep coming to the forefront just like when you’re buying a new car and all of a sudden, the car that you wanted to buy is everywhere, or like I was shopping for trees last season and all of a sudden, I’m noticing all the trees and all the differences in all the trees when normally it was just they were all trees I was driving by. I started to be more heightened and more aware of the types of things that I thought about during my experience at the museum.
Later that day, I started to think about this transition period that I’m in right now and I was really thinking about the period that I’m in right now in my life is a slower period, it’s a period of more introspection, it’s a period of more being instead of doing. So much of my life I have been a doer. I’ve always had two jobs. I was always working a full-time job and a part-time job at night and working full-time and starting my business on the side. It’s always been this go-go-go mentality my entire life. I’m really good at getting sh*t done right, but this new direction of really focusing fully on the art connection and really spending time slowing down with art talking to people about their feelings about the art, connecting with people and with the art, it’s a slower process, it’s not a to-do list.
That painting that I really connected with in the museum is a slow painting. She’s sitting there, she’s working on herself, she’s harnessing her power, she’s starting to feel her fire but she’s having to do it in this slow, supported space. It’s so interesting that I kept thinking about that as I went. Then another thing that happened, there was something else I was going to say, but it came in the car right before I was getting out of the car, this insight came on Friday and I was like, “I don’t even remember exactly what I was going to say,” but another thing that I like to do is I have oracle deck cards, like tarot cards, and just other kinds of decks. I pulled a card for the week to set my intention for the week last night and the card that I pulled was from an animal medicine card deck. It was like you pulled a card and it was the animals. Then when you read the book, it talks to you about what the animal symbolizes, or whatever, and what lessons it has.
There was a line in here, and I’m going to pull it up and tell you exactly what it said, but I just about died when I saw that line. I was so excited and on the last line of the text for this card, it was the snake card, it said, “Accept the power of the fire.” I was like, “Are you kidding me?” There was this whole art experience I had just a few days ago that was all about harnessing the fire. It was like the power within was this fire and then in all of them, in all the paintings that I looked at, there’s fire. There’s one where she’s harnessing the fire and she’s controlling the fire, and there’s one where she’s practicing harnessing the fire, and then there’s this other one where her foot is on fire and then she’s falling into flames. Then there was this other one where her whole body was fire. She was just glowing. In the one where she was practicing, her head was starting to glow a little bit.
It was just fascinating to me how days later this art experience is still giving to me. It’s still giving me insights, it’s still popping into my mind. That really shows the power of these experiences that it’s possible to use art in a way to work on yourself and your self-development to give you new insights and all of this. I wanted to do this episode so that I could really show you what it’s like to do something like this and the power of that. If this is something that intrigued you, if this is something that you want to try, I challenge you to go out and try it for yourself. But also I would love to invite you to the Art Connection Circle. It is starting very soon, the Art Connection Circle starts next week on the 18th of January to 2021. If you’re listening to this at a later date, go ahead and check out artclasscurator.com/circle and see when the next session is, but what we’re doing is we’re getting together in a small group and we’re going to have these sorts of conversations. We’re going to look at art together. We’re going to talk about how it relates to us. We’re going to hear people work through these sorts of connections. Not only will you get to experience their insights, but you’ll get to have your own as well.
I imagine that when you listen to my story, there’s something about it that resonated with you. There was something that I said about something that I’m going through that is related to something that you’re going through, or you looked at the art and you saw something similar. They say what’s most personal is most universal, that when we connect with someone deeply about themselves, we learn about ourselves through that as well. I want to encourage you to join us for the Art Connection Circle. It’s a small group of people and we will be together and in a Zoom room. We will talk about art together and trust that the content will be in the room, the right people will be there, and we will have the conversations that we’re meant to have in that space. If you’re interested in checking it out, come to artclasscurator.com/circle. This is a program that is for anybody, not just for art teachers. A lot of you know that I have been working mostly with art teachers for the past seven years. This program is for art teachers and everyone else. It’s not teaching specific at all, this is about you and it’s about your journey and your connection with works of art.
I really hope to see you there. I trust that whoever is meant to be in this group will be in this group and it will be a really powerful and transformational experience. Basically, how it will run is we’ll have two live sessions every week for six weeks. The first live session will be a little bit more guided. I’ll come with some artworks and I will basically pick the artworks based on the group. It will be what my intuition leads me to pick based on my interactions with the group. Then the second session will be a little bit more open-ended about some homework assignments that you’re given. It’s not a lot. You’re going to have hours of work to do, and of course, everything is optional, you don’t have to do the homework assignments if you don’t want to but it’s just whatever you feel guided to do. We’ll talk about our experiences with those assignments and it’ll be a little bit more free form for the second session of every week.
I don’t know if you listened to the episode that I did back in the fall with Vanessa Zoltan. She wrote the book Praying with Jane Eyre and she runs the podcast Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. Then she also does the podcast Hot & Bothered. They look at romance novels through the same lens as well. One of the things she writes about in her book Praying with Jane Eyre is really defining what sacredness is and what makes something sacred. To me, ever since I read her book over the summer, I realized that my time in art museums and my time with works of art is a sacred act. What she says is that sacredness is an act and not a thing. If she decides that Jane Eyre is sacred and that’s what her sacred text is, that means that the actions that she takes with Jane Eyre make it secret. It’s the engagement with it that makes it sacred.
Then I’m quoting her book here. She also says, “Objects are sacred only because they are loved.” It’s in the ritual. It’s in the engagement. It’s in that connection with the artwork that will make it sacred. She says that there are three things that are needed to treat something as sacred. She says treat a text, but I’m treating art as sacred although I consider art a text as well. But she says faith, rigor, and community. When she’s talking about faith, it is basically saying that you have faith, that the time that you spend with the object, with the thing, with the artwork, you have faith that the more time you spend with it, the more you’re going to get out of it, that you know that when you engage with a work of art, that you will receive something back from it. That is the first thing that you need. I think that is one of my goals in showing you this experience with this artwork that I had today or this exhibit—there are several artworks—to show that indeed, there is a lot that you can get out of it.
The second thing she says is rigor. She says, “Rigor means that you keep at it even when your heart isn’t in it. You have to do the work whether or not you are in the mood.” Basically, you don’t give up on yourself and you don’t give up on the text. You keep going back. I think that’s a really important lesson. It’s one that I don’t think I’ve fully mastered is rigor. I’m really good at going to art museums regularly. It’ll be fun to test myself with this experience of going every month to this exhibit to see what it brings to me because I know life will get in the way and there probably will be an instance at some point over the next five months while this exhibit is still up that I will be like, “Oh, I’m not in the mood. I’ve already looked at that so many times. I’ve already spent so much time with it,” and so that’s going to be fun to see how my rigor changes and how my attitude towards it changes. I’ll report how it goes.
Then the last thing she says is that you need a community. I think that it is really insanely valuable to have a group of people that you can connect with and talk to about the works of art. In the last few years, I’ve done one-on-one coaching programs and I’ve also done some group coaching programs. The one-on-ones have been amazing but I get so much from the group programs because even if I’m not the one doing the talking, even if I’m just there and listening, I still get so much out of hearing other people’s experience of life. It’s just like what I said in the podcast last week where that quote from John Baldwin says, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.” There is something so incredibly powerful about hearing other people’s experience of life and hearing other people’s experience of the same art that you’re experiencing, and to see how it changes.
When I have those art conversations with Madalyn on the podcast, I get so much more from those than I do within a solo experience of the art by myself because I have someone else who’s noticing other things than I am. That’s the true magic. It’s so amazing and I have lived my life so lucky to have these experiences of teaching art and being in a room with a bunch of students, whether they’re adults or whether they’re third graders, the energy surrounding an art discussion is a magical powerful experience. If you haven’t had the opportunity to experience that for yourself, I know some of you are teachers and you’ve gotten to experience it as the teacher, but I invite you to join us to be a member of the community and to be an active participant and to see what gifts that gives you as a person.
I hope you join us at the Art Connection Circle. Again, we’re starting on the week of the 17th of January 2021. If you’re listening to this in the future, go ahead and join our waitlist. You can also head over to artclasscurator.com/circle and see when the next session is running. Thank you so much for listening today. I will be back talking about this exhibit again. I’m going to be going back every month. I don’t know if I’ll do a podcast episode each time. This is an experiment. We’re just going to see what happens and I’m going to have faith that the rigor that I am going to experience with this exhibit, I have faith that the artwork will continue to give me gifts that I don’t know what they are yet. I look forward to that. Thank you again for listening. I will see you next week on You Need Art. Bye.
Have you learned all the lessons art has to teach you? Of course not. Art always has something more to teach us about ourselves, about the world, about where we’ve been, and where we’re going. Art is more than a creative outlet. It’s a powerful tool that can teach you about yourself and help you recognize your path in life. If you want to learn life lessons through art, I invite you to join our Art Connection Circle. In the Circle, you’ll learn how to find your truest self by looking at art and connecting with a community of passionate, thoughtful individuals. Together, we explore the human condition and find answers to our heart’s deepest questions inside of brushstrokes, captured in photographs and in conversations with one another. Learn more about what the Art Connection Circle has to offer you and how to join at artclasscurator.com/circle.
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