story through image.

October 13, 2011

In order for all of my classmates to come to know one another better, my professor requested that we each make a collage answering the questions “Who am I? Who do I want to be?” Because storytelling is how we make sense of life, and how we come to know each other, we each took a turn one Friday, sharing our images. We took the five hours of class time to listen, to piece together, to laugh. Because there is such a great diversity among the 32 of us, the stories had great depth, hurt, beauty, and humor. I came to know of people’s odd hobbies, travels, family traditions, and spiritual journeys. Everyone’s collage looked so different – some were hand-drawn, some just words, some on canvas, some on poster-board, some were digital, literal, abstract – all reflecting the intricacy of the human condition.

A friend and I gathered wine, cheese, music, and lots of magazines, paint, and glue – spreading out on the floor as the pacific rain came pouring down. We shared our own stories, quotes, and paths, as we pieced together our collages. Mine is pictured above, and I would like to share.

On the background of the piece is a map of San Diego. It is not only where I have physically come to, but the place where so much of my life has led me to – this place, with these experiences is both a place of arrival, and a place of departure.  There are a few literal representations of important aspects of my life – art, biking, baking, working with children.

I chose the ampersand to signify my journey to understand that life is much more about the “both/and” than the “either/or.” (I recall Waterdeep’s song And.) There is much more grey in life than black/white – most specifically when it comes to people. There is complexity and complication which create layers to every story. Giving people of the benefit of the doubt is a great gift. Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle. (Attributed to Philo of Alexandria.)

The human heart in the center reminds me of my own mortality. I am mind, body, and spirit – and the continued beating heart, pumping blood, breathing, thinking, feeling is a gift.

The hand holding the seeds says Food as Sacrament. A passion I have been given, and a talent I am cultivating, is the art of food. It is a way to be sustained, to love one another, share goodness, and connect with the earth. It is a daily, tangible experience of gratitude and abundance. I hope to serve thousands more beautiful meals.

The car load full of people speaks quietly to my hope for travel and a family of my own.

The plant life is taken from various California botanical sources. Nature is wise. Its growth is dependent on many sources, and it takes care to regenerate with the seasons.

The Annie Dillard quote says:

I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wondering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them.


process: two

March 23, 2011

process: one

March 21, 2011

Working on a small scale with watercolor, wax, and thread. We take the sky, as if red is something we could own, something we might find in the stillest moments, as if the earth is humane and wouldn’t break our bones. (None of His were broken. Not one, allegedly.)

[LENT]: empty space

March 18, 2011


Lent is much about the empty space, the simplicity of time, heart, body. It is about shedding the layers of winter and stretching again, extending my hands to the furthest reach, to see just how much there is around me. It is about breathing. The fast is the ability to say no, to experiment in restraint, and to exercise the muscles of discipline. All of this points to our humanity, our limitations, our need for something else, something greater.

The created emptiness leaves room to profoundly question. There are so many worldwide groanings to pay attention to. There is future and past to grapple with. There is body to move and spirit to breathe. What is prayer? I am quite not sure. But this heart of mine is open.


I have spent the last week moving over many ideas and materials, sketching and being inspired by many. This much I know – watercolor and graphite on paper. The delicacy of materials matches the fragility of life that I am thinking of, and my own mortality and humanity. Drawing with these materials is sure to show the artist’s hand, and to show the immediacy of the season. Watercolor paper offers a beautiful rough texture to be left empty. And now it is with hope I can stumble upon what it is that needs to fill the space…


We Take the Sky

We take the sky, as if red is something we could own,
something we might find in the stillest moments,
as if the earth is humane and wouldn’t break
our bones. (None of His were broken. Not one.)

Red is in the land too, is in the way we look at each other, the hardness
of our sleep, the need to fall down, to tell of the pox that swept Aunt Jess,
the drink that ushers Father, the path that never leads to wealth or rest
or health—but the one we always take. Shalom, we say. Buena Suerte.

We always take the sky, fold it over ourselves,
the soil, run it across our skin and cling to it,
savoring the tart of a lemon, palming a bar of soap
even when our hands are clean, naming the insects

that fly across the white bulb of moon late at night,
rakishly loving the one who knows our smell,
saying (as if they are not questions), Isn’t this how
we stay alive
and Why shouldn’t I burrow here.

This is how we drum on, cold and ungrowing—
what more to be than alive? It all hums: so we die in small bits,
so the egg-shaped hollow that sits behind our stomachs,
so He died and rose again on the third day, so (what).

We take the sky, we scatter on the land. We fall down,
grab the everythings, the tiniest cures, fall down again,
wash ourselves in red and know, unwittingly, it is not enough.
More certain than anything: it will never be,

and then here, in the stillest moments, the story rushes again
(veil splitting, stone rolling, Mary, Peter, John, running,
linen and spices like a limp cocoon, the blur of angels, the one red
splash of a second—like a rose breaking open—when we know),

and somewhere inside us a small green seed pricks the dirt,
coiling for air. He soothes and stirs, fingertip-sized holes in His
hands, roaming the soil and the sky for our broken bones.
And the shaking on earth is our brand new lives:

Alleluia, we say, feeling even the empty oval of our stomachs rise.

Copyright ©2005 by Susanna Childress

from dust we came

March 9, 2011

During the next forty days, I will be engaging the season of Lent with a number of artists in the greater Oklahoma City area. The project is called from dust we came. Tonight we gathered, among our hurried lives to be quiet, turn our hearts inward, and remember – from dust we came, and to dust we shall return.

Something of humility to be reminded of my mortality in such a visceral way: ashes placed on my forehead. Formed from the ground and to the ground I will be given back to. Lent is a season celebrated by the church, but has many themes that run throughout nature, death and life, and the frailty we see daily. It is part of the cycle of the seasons, and can act as a time to self-reflect, as well as transition out of winter’s cold into the newness of spring.

dust and ashes / darkness / death / springed-winter / bright-sadness / in-between / pilgrimage / liminal space / downward-ascent / dehumanization / rehumanization / stripping away / being laid bare / taking on / giving up / surrendering / embracing / desert / garden / kiss / betrayal / cup of suffering / double journey toward God and self / mirror / to awaken and watch / unvarnished truth /

I hope to document parts of the artistic process here, sharing sketches, writings, and completed works.

Also, follow the blog: fromdustwecame


Photo credit: Bill Fink

January 2, 2011

Things I am Thankful For by Chicago-based artist and illustrator Laura Berger.

art to like.

February 3, 2010

Zach Bent, Preaching to the Choir – 24″x30″ – 2007

November 23, 2009

I just finished this painting. I am afraid the image is a bit of a poor representation because each one of the three canvases is three by three feet. At any rate, it will give you an idea. The detail of the flower, below, shows that I have started working with my paint much thicker. (Inspiration coming from Frank Auerbach and Anselm Kiefer.)

I am beginning to explore personal history, and the relationship between childhood/adulthood, innocence/realization, light/dark and the place of love in this often unforgiving world. The inspiration for this painting comes from a photograph of my brother and I in our childhood. It is something of leaving home, the treachery and confusion, and hope.

I am constantly learning and growing, and am always happy to dialogue about my work.