Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I’ve had a slew of careers and wild roller-coaster-ride of a religious and spiritual journey.
My life is a patchwork quilt that, with the distance of time, appears as an integrated whole. My careers in chronological order: graphic artist, sociologist, college professor, state government project manager, senior management at a advert-PR agency, therapeutic bodyworker, freelance writer, published author, digital communications consultant, online community developer, mixed media mosaic artist.
People routinely ask what I haven’t done. “Never was nor wanted to be a ballerina,” I say.
I’ve written about my spiritual journey on my blog and in my books about the spirituality of everyday life. I’ve also had quite the archetypal tour through religions and denominations/movements. Archetypal because I returned home to Judaism in 2016, fully enriched and hopefully wiser.
As for my spiritual life, I’m a mystic – on the path of direct experiences of the Divine and sacred.
What inspired you to become an artist?
Becoming an artist was, I believe, destined by a combination of nature and nurture. My maternal grandmother, z”l, was an artist and interior decorator. My mother was an art student at the University of New Mexico in the 1930s and had an extraordinary aesthetic sense. My father, z”l, was a high-level amateur photographer. True story: while suburbanites were busy building bomb shelters during the 1950s, my father built a darkroom in our basement.
I also have deep roots in Judaica. My maternal grandfather, z”l, was a craftsman who created the bimah and podiums for my childhood synagogue. My mother became a Judaica editor. Two years ago while tidying up; I found and finally framed a monoprint of Job I created in 1969. More about my art journey here.
What is your specialty?
I use mixed media to create mosaics that mix symbols from across spiritual traditions. Any one piece may have a combination of mini-tiles, fragments of stained glass, beads, sparkly bits from dismantled jewelry, buttons, a Tree of Life, Jewish star, hamsa, or dragonfly charm, angel wings, and what-all. I’ve become magpie.
What seems to be holding constant is my fascination with small-scale work. The hamsa, Jewish star, and mezuzah substrates I use are 5-6.” My seed bead mandalas and labyrinths usually have a surface diameter of 3” although I might work myself up to 8-10” circles or squares! Small-scale work invites me deeper into the visual story emerging as I work. Also, hard to get too distracted while working with tweezers.
How and where do you work?
My little home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has an open-space format for living, kitchen, and dining areas. I’ve transformed all that into studio space. My home-as-studio set-up fits my work style. During art school (Rochester Institute of Technology), I developed the habit of working at night to ensure uninterrupted studio time. Now, five decades later that work style remains deeply grooved. I need and want 5 to 6 solid hours to enter a piece, clean up my workspace, and prep for the next night before wandering off to my bedroom.
What is the most indispensable item in your studio?
At any given time, Weldbond™ adhesive, Fix-It® Multi-Media Repair Compound, tweezers, and dental tools vie for supremacy.
Where do you take your inspiration? Are you pursuing any themes?
Not for nothing is New Mexico called “The Land of Enchantment.” I moved here in June 2018 quipping that I was becoming a stereotype – “aging woman artist moves to Albuquerque.” I now live in a city that’s one big art colony and gallery with the Sandia mountains standing watch. I don’t have to walk very far out of my front door to feel life breathed into my artwork. Longtime friends have noted a radical change in my color palette and images since I moved to Albuquerque.
As for themes, spiritual symbology and the mashup thereof, dominates my work, even in traditional Judaica such as Jewish stars, mezuzahs, and hamsas. I consciously infuse my work with multiple dimensions. For example, I’ll put a traditional eye symbol in the center of a labyrinth, which is a Christian walking meditation practice. I’m not deliberately pursuing any themes and love when people tell me themes they’re seeing.
What projects are you currently working on?
If staring at a pile of unfinished little dreidels counts as working, then that’s what I’m doing in between whatever I feel compelled to do next. I’m massively stuck on how and whether to add traditional Hebrew letters to the dreidels or to go abstract. Working on it. Input welcomed.
What is your favourite item in your current collection?
Every piece is my favorite until I start the next one!
How do you know when a piece is finished?
As a technical issue, I pay attention to things like cleaning up adhesive, touching up paint, adding a protective finish and hanger, taking pictures and posting them to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and my website, plus signing and dating the work. Like many artists, I face the challenge of overworking a piece. I take pictures at various stages so I can get a better sense of what I might need to add or remove. Because I work so small and close, photographs help a lot. As a creative issue, I’ve learned to notice the transcendent yet anchored sense of the piece being complete.
Do you do bespoke work?
Yes! I welcome customized commissioned work. Artwork often involves creative problem solving. Bespoke work is an opportunity to listen deeply to how people express what they want, and then translating that visually.
What was the first artwork you ever sold?
To the best of my memory, I was 15 years old, and it was a pen and ink drawing of a blue balloon tethered to a bench underneath the tree.
Which project have you enjoyed working on the most so far?
Here I want to redirect this question to write a bit about differences between making art and writing. Having spent decades as a working writer and author as well as editorial services consultant, I would frequently explain how being in the sublime flow of writing occurs maybe 1% of the time; the rest is hard work. After writing half a dozen books, I started muttering, “Friends don’t let friends write books.”Not so with making art. At least not yet for me.
A design issue might become challenging, materials might need to be ditched halfway through, or the entire work dumped, but I don’t feel the level of frustration, discouragement, and fear I’d experience while writing a book. For now and long may it last, I manage to enjoy all aspects of every project. I get a particular kick out of surveying my supply shelves and gathering materials. See? Magpie!
What do you want to achieve with your work and what are your wishes for the future?
Achieve, hmm. For myself, making art is part of my ongoing restoration to wholeness as well as a spiritual practice. Put more succinctly, I always hope for transformation. Art helps.
At some point, I’d like to provide a safe space to talk about making art as a spiritual practice and why certain art forms have been ignored or suppressed by religious zealots.
For others, I hope my mix of spiritual symbols from several religious traditions helps break down humanly constructed barriers. Truth to tell, my return to making art accelerated after I moderated an online interfaith chat that got bogged down by words. Art – making and viewing – gets us to a non-cognitive zone to “be with.”
Where can we find your work?
Instagram: I post work in progress (#wip, #workinprogress) at several stages as well as when it’s finished. As a result, people have claimed work before it gets onto my website.I welcome conversations on my Facebook profile and via Twitter.
© Meredith Gould