Pure Vision

Pure VisionThis hanging went to Ruth Bieber to represent her incredibly innate connection to the world around her. Ruth was an absolute dream to work with. One of my biggest tasks at the start of any painting is figuring out why symbols to use. However, back in July when Ruth first contacted me about doing a painting for her, she stated she already knew exactly what symbols she wanted, as her and her 2 sons had all visited a local Shaman outside of Calgary.

We did have one more symbol to come up with to even out the painting. Ruth is the Artistic Director of the Inside Out Theatre based in Calgary, Alberta. In short, this program enables participants with disabilities (mental, physical, sensory) an opportunity to benefit from an innovative training program involving the Theatre Arts.

From their website:

Ruth Bieber merged her theatre training and social work background in the fall of 1991 with the advent of the Inside Out Integrated Theatre Project. Since its inception, Ruth has been the artistic director of Inside Out as well as the association’s coordinator. Her work with persons with disabilities in theatre has led to teaching opportunities at Mount Royal College, the University of Calgary and Concordia University, Montreal. Further to this, she has given numerous workshops and conference presentations, nationally and internationally. She has published articles, including one highlighting her experiences as a legally blind mother of two children (Erik and Martin)

Ruth was also the recipient of the 2004 Global Television/YWCA Woman of Vision Award.

With these inspiring accomplishments in mind, I decided a mask would be an appropriate last symbol for the painting, representing her work in theatre and for her “Pure Vision” and clarity with which see greets the world every day.

Ruth – Deer

Deer - detailAs stated above, a local Shaman has already recognized Ruth as a Deer. The deer represents love, grace, gentleness, kindness, sensitivity, compassion and kindness. Deer are often referred to as the “first helper” and are the protector of the family. People with Deer Medicine attributes are described as being swift and alert, and bring grace and beauty to any surrounding. Deer are intuitive and have an almost extra sensory perception. They carry the message of purity of purpose, and of walking in the light.

I have put 2 deer in this section, a mirror image of each other, with the Eye of the Medicine Man symbol in the centre for clear vision. The sun is in each corner of the paintings, forming a complete sun in the very centre, for brightness and warmth and a blessing upon the family.

Ruth – Mask

Mask - detailThe second symbol I chose for Ruth was a mask; in this case an African inspired design. This seemed the best symbol to capture her passion for working with people of all abilities in a creatively inspired environment.

Erik – Heron

Heron detailThis symbol is for Ruth’s oldest son, 18-year-old Erik. The Heron is a bird of patience and grace, and symbolizes vigilance, quiet, power of water, tact, delicacy, renewal, life and transformation.

Birds in general are usually used to represent prophetic knowledge, unity, freedom, enlightenment, swiftness, vision, ascent, sight and transcendence.

I had the most fascinating experience while coming up with the design for Erik’s Heron. I was drawing this out on a friend’s dock on Lake Kocanusa near Fernie B.C. back in August, the entire time under the watchful gaze of a bald eagle in a near by tree. I like to think his energy and curious gaze helped me create this Heron. But it did much more than that, as that was the inspiration behind David’s eagle

Martin – Wolf

Wolf - detailThis symbol is for Ruth’s youngest son, 13-year-old Martin. The Wolf is a teacher of new ideas and represents wisdom, intuition, learning, perseverance, and the shadow of oneself. They are teachers and guides to the sacred. Often known as the Pathfinder, they show intense loyalty with a balance of independence. Someone who exudes the characteristics of Wolf Medicine is thought to have a strong sense of self and provides stability and support within the family structure.

In the Zuni tradition, the Wolf symbolizes the direction East, and fitting since about 95% of everything I draw faces East, or to the Right (I’ve read that is a right brained thing…)

Border – Feminine Energy

Ruth also wanted something in the painting for her Virgo side, representing feminine energy. I suggested we use the border to show how she externally radiates her energy, and then draws people into her deeper more existential side within. What better sign that one of the most ancient symbols for femininity: the “V” symbol. And yes, for those of you who have read The DaVinci Code, it is the primordial symbol for Womanhood.

Because Ruth is legally blind, I took a little extra time with this hanging to build up the thickness of each line so Ruth would be able to feel the actual design on the hanging. Ruth’s favourite colour is purple, so I chose a wild iris colour, which I then lightened to a medium tone, and contrasted that with bright white (which I rarely paint with) and deep Prussian Blue (which I almost always paint with) to help the images stand out against one another as much as possible.

iPod playlist: a continuum ….from this past summer, and I also watched The Family Stone(probably my favourite movie of 2005) about 7 times in one weekend while painting this:

  • Losing Haringey – The Clientele (from Strange Geometry)
  • I can see myself alone – The Field Mice (from Snowball + Singles)
  • When you were young – The Killers (from from Sam’s Town )
  • Head Home – Midlake (from The Trials Of Van Occupanther)
  • Young Bride – Midlake (from The Trials Of Van Occupanther)
  • Anthemoessa – Amethystium (from Emblem)
  • Bibo No Aozora / 04 – Ryuichi Sakamoto (from Babel)

Well, the painting hangs proudly on my wall… Generally people are very struck by it, and it is so fun for me watching them try to make sense of all the symbolism. Sighted people are such a mystery to me, and this piece just amplifies that reality. Everyone sees everything differently. Where one person will se the wolf right off the bat, another won’t see it even after having it pointed out, and on it goes. It’s great, because these reactions are simply another reflection of my life. The write up really is a great addition, and people really enjoy that. It really goes well on the wall; like it was always supposed to be there. – Ruth Bieber

Ruth uses her fingers to see the paintingRuth and Mags holding up the painting