Quaker Art

Art by Quakers fills my life today. Some months ago Robert Batson, a member of Hartford Friends Meeting (aka Quaker), exhibited some of his work at the meeting house. The art captured my attention, and I purchased piece. Today I brought home the 18″x24″ Untitled painting by Robert. I love the colors and the use of space and the emotions, some contrary, that piece expresses to me. (click on it for larger view)
Then after meeting we had our monthly potluck lunch where I met a visitor, a retired high school art teacher. Sadly I did not catch his name, but he offered to draw something on my journal cover. He created this dove.
Finally while sitting with Jamie Taylor, a Friend from meeting, we chatted about literature and art (and a thousand other things. A PhD candidate doing research in public policy and homelessness, Jamie embraces many interests–poetry, meditation, social justice issues, dynamics of relationships, etc. So we converse broadly)

As we talked about art and the strange fit for the artist in the Quaker community, I doodled something I have titled Quacker Worship. I think Alex in Sweden inspired me as he attended a Quaker retreat near Stockholm this weekend (note the colors).
Quaker Art–a strange fit. As a performance artist working in comedy, I find that presenting to a Quaker audiences fills me with anxiety and concerns that I rarely experience in other venues. Some Friends enjoy and “get” what I do, but I regularly meet Quakers who do not (and tell me so as they offer their critiques, suggestions and sources of offense). I find that some Quakers offend easily. Some focus so much on words that they miss the point. I do take some of what they say seriously and consider it to see if it speaks to me (usually it does not).

Art for me comes from a place of worship–it serves as worship infused with messages. It is ministry (and yes I still shrink from that word but begin to accept it). I do occasionally speak in meeting (vocal ministry). But my art is my worship and includes more than words.

At the Ex-Gay Survivors Conference Christine Bakke organized an art show, created collages of the ex-gay experience and currently curates our on-line gallery. Seeing the impact of that art on those who have viewed it reminds me that people need more than vocal ministry. In fact, vocal ministry can get stuck in the head (and we Quakers can be a heady bunch). Words get clogged and can miss the mark, but art–visual, musical, performance, dance, film–can bypass the filters and get to a deeper place in us.

Often an audience member tells me they feel moved by one of my shows, but they do not fully understand why. They sometimes hear messages that I never utter or script. Art wedded with Spirit aids our abilities to grow, heal, feel challenged and find hope.

This post has 5 Comments

  1. Craig on October 15, 2007 at 11:51 am Reply

    Peterson you can’t possibly be suggesting that there are Quakers who get so caught up in the wording of something that they lose sight of the whole point. Thats absolutely rediculous…wink wink

  2. Willie Hewes on October 17, 2007 at 7:41 pm Reply

    Art is definitely more than the words that are spoken, it’s more than the sum of its parts. Some things you can’t say in words you can say in an image.

    I like your drawing. It looks like a chicken. Tee hee.

    I badly need to catch up with your blog. *sweat* It’s not hard work though, you’re always insightful and stuff.

  3. Peterson Toscano on October 18, 2007 at 3:52 am Reply

    craig, ridiculous.

    willie, chicken. duck. parrot. You are the visual artist not me, so whatever you say it is, it is.

  4. C. Wess Daniels on October 23, 2007 at 2:03 pm Reply

    peterson great post, I really like the art you’ve got here. It’s beautiful.

  5. MaryM on October 25, 2007 at 12:13 am Reply

    I can appreciate that some Friends are humor challenged, both in the presenting of humor, and the understanding of it. I am also an artist, some of my work is spirit inspired, and some is not. I like doing art both ways. I find it fascinating that the non-art Friends I know usually respond better to the spirit led pieces. ( I work in fiber and don’t indicate which is which).

    MaryM

Leave a Comment