Art and Faith Perspective #2: Ann Peachman Stewart

When I was 17, I went on a retreat with a singing group I joined at church. People who know me laugh when I tell this story, because my singing is of the “joyful noise” variety. Filled with passion and not much talent, we sang in various churches, and this retreat started our second year. On that weekend, my entire life changed forever, and it had nothing to do with singing. I discovered a faith that has been my anchor ever since, and which has carried me through the most gut-wrenching of pain throughout my life. I started a friendship with Jesus.

My writing journey began in public school. I didn’t excel in sports, and we’ve already discussed my musical talent. I enjoyed biology, but all other sciences confused me, and all forms of math left me cold. But when this shy introvert picked up a pen, the words flowed. I loved to read, and I “got” Shakespeare and Bronte and the other authors we studied. When I wrote, my insecurities fell away and the thoughts inside me had free expression.

My muse went silent for many years. I published a few articles, journalled and wrote a poem or two, but it wasn’t until a later season of my life, when I dove into writing courses, that I fed the writer in me and felt her come alive. I published non-fiction articles, started a blog, discovered a love for writing contemporary fiction and finished my first novel.

The theme of my novel deals with a dysfunctional Christian family coping with Alzheimer’s. A mentor suggested I brand myself through my blog, http://www.annpeachman.blogspot.com by addressing issues faced by care partners, both family and professional. I’ve been doing this weekly for almost seven years. Topics ranging from forms of dementia to maintaining a sense of humour to handling Christmas to palliative care all cross the page as I reach out to those who are on the front lines. Faith isn’t usually a topic, but as I write with compassion and understanding to people facing challenges, my faith can’t be separated from what I am saying.

I find it difficult to separate my faith and my writing. My faith is who I am, and who I am is reflected in everything I write. I seldom use “Christian” language, as that isn’t necessarily my audience, and people can find it confusing. I sometimes write about faith issues, but usually from a personal perspective. When I am vulnerable about my struggles, people listen. They may not relate the the faith, but they connect to the struggle.

I believe readers are looking for authenticity in what is written, and when writing from a faith perspective, that’s key.

ANN PEACHMAN STEWART has worked at Christie Gardens for almost 20 years; the last five have been as an Advocate. She supports Care Partners who care for elders, as well as family members and the elders themselves. She’s passionate about loving her three grown children, their spouses and her three adorable granddaughters. She also loves knitting, Netflix, Greek yogurt and graveyards, in no particular order. You can find her here.

Art and Faith Perspective #1: Patricia DeWit

I am unapologetic about my faithless art.  Or maybe it’s not really faithless if  we can extricate religion from faith. Hmmm. That might require some imagination. But that’s exactly my point. My best art happens when I feel the same way I did as a child playing with paper dolls on the carpeted floor of my closet, letting my imagination lead, or, more recently, the feeling I get when I am creating an alternative existence with my paints and canvas. It’s because these activities are all about imagining and picturing myself somewhere else, somewhere chosen, a place completely and personally designed by me. I have wondered if that’s what faith is, after all,  simply the ability to visualize beyond now, beyond the limits, beyond the obstacles, like some kind of ‘evidence of things unseen’.

So, for me, faith in art is more about imagination and less about religion. If I go with my understanding of ‘faith as imagining’, it follows that faith and art are a very hand-in-hand pairing.

I must confess that I can’t stand most art that comes from the realm of religion. Believe me, I have tried, but I can’t find my place in those settings nor do I WANT to find it. That’s because historically, religion has an agenda: to make me believe. It feels too much like someone telling me what to think, what to feel, what to reverence and what to fear. It feels cramped, as though there is no negative space. I paint in watercolours. Negative space is how we paint light. I get the feeling that religious art dictates the lines and colours; the shapes and its  icons are exhibitionists so obvious and blatant. Inside I gag and cough them up as they get spooned (shoveled) down my throat. And I fidget. My exasperated breaths interrupt paradise and betray my unbelieving heart. You would not enjoy visiting a museum with me.

I would say religious art is more like a spelling dictation where you are supposed to have already understood an absolute, jotted it down enough times to commit it to memory, and avoid making a mistake in putting it down in writing. Religion is a rigid instructor, reading over your shoulder, demanding correctness, or, heaven forbid, you risk insulting God or the gods and, by default, going to hell.

Religion has wanted to edit its version of faith into art. One of my favourite songs is  ‘Hallelujah’ by Leonard Cohen. Have you heard the *cough* Christian edits? You see phrases like ‘revised Christian lyrics’ or ‘those lyrics however are not appropriate to Christian …’ and ‘I’ve always loved the melody to Cohen’s song but never thought the lyrics were truly Christian.’  One singer on YouTube put the tagline ‘a special version of Hallelujah with a Christian twist.’ A Christian twist?

Oh religion. You try too hard.

Faith in art, however, is a different Way, an actual place, where you and I can picture things other than what is and contemplate all that is beyond right now. We can envision different and other ‘heres’ and ‘nows’. One wise ancient thinker said that when we stop envisioning other heres and nows  we  lose our self and ultimately we perish.

Let’s not perish but continue creating from a place of faith-filled imaginings for ourselves and any who want to step into our images.

PATRICIA DEWITT is a tri-lingual Canadian living in Paris, France, married to Peter, mother to five grown children as well as the precious spouses they love, self-taught artist and illustrator, speaker, writer, certified lifecoach. Large cities are her comfort zone. Nature is God’s napkin doodle but people are the masterpiece. She has spent time living in Canada, Thailand, Germany, and France. You can find her on Facebook