Weaving the Threads of Life

  • Written by  Lisa Bowditch
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Artist, managing editor of Op-Ed News, and author of 90-Minute Quilts, Meryl Ann Butler teaches and creates art in her studio in Ocean View. Her latest piece, “No Place like Om,” is on display through March 29, 2018, as part of d’Art Center’s “Material” exhibit.

TW: One of your specialties is Illuminated Mandalas, customized art based on the client’s soul pattern? How did you come up with the idea?
MAB: My great-grandmother was a psychic so it runs in the family. I took a class with Dr. Judith Cornell. Her technique was colored pencils on black paper, and she called it drawing the life from within. I realized I could do the same thing that I was doing with creating wearable art through meditation, but it would only take hours. It was good for me because I had a gypsy-like existence at the time.

TW: How can art reconnect us with our purpose?
MAB: I’ve been meditating for over fifty years. It makes me intuitive and in tune with my soul’s purpose. If people don’t want to meditate every day, having your mandala in front of you is going to resonate on a level that’s beyond words. The drawing grows with the person to the place they need to be. I teach a class where people can come draw their own mandalas.

TW: Tell me about your labyrinth art.
MAB: I did a sixty-foot temporary labyrinth at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. It was made with sticks, field chalk, and colored scarves. When you were in the amphitheater, you could look a mile away and see people walking it. Once I saw a husband pushing his wife in a wheel chair through the labyrinth I did at A.R.E. It seemed like something holy was happening. When they got to the center, she got up and walked the entire way out.

TW: How has travel influenced your art?
MAB: I did the first U.S. Soviet Children’s Peace Quilt Exchange project between schoolchildren in Ukraine and Virginia Beach. I taught the children at Linkhorn Elementary about the importance of symbols and had them draw their own symbols for peace on fabric. We took that quilt to School 119 in Odessa, Ukraine, and I taught them the same thing. I collect fabrics from all over and have lived in New Mexico, Arizona, and California.

TW: There are glow-in-the-dark threads in some of your art. What gave you this idea?
MAB: There are glow-in-the-dark threads all around the Dalai Lama in the d’Art show’s piece so that if you turn off the lights you see his aura. I don’t do much thinking. I just get in an altered state, and stuff sort of just comes to me. I love glitter, rhinestones, and glow in the dark. It doesn’t have to be real diamonds with me. As long as it sparkles, I’m happy.

TW: Does music ever inspire your art?
MAB: Classical music like Mozart and Scarlatti puts me in an altered state that makes me more creative. I’m working on a new 1960s quilt which I’ve been collecting embellishments and fabrics for 15 years. When I’m working on that, I’ll listen to 60s music.

TW: How can we encourage our children to be creative?
MAB: Have creative materials available and encourage exploration. If you don’t understand what your child drew, that’s no fault of the child. If you say, “What is that?” there’s a value judgment that assumes they didn’t do it well enough for you to know what it was. Instead of saying, “I don’t understand what you did,” the best thing to say is, “Please tell me about it.” It validates the child’s experience more. I encourage parents to understand that whatever art their child did is right.

TW: How have inspiring individuals helped shape your art?
MAB: In 2001 I sketched the Dalai Lama in California. Then he came to William and Mary, and I got to bring my camera. I used those pictures to develop the image on the d’Art piece. Most of my quilts are based on the idea of the Divine Feminine, but I feel like he is a harbinger of the Divine Feminine. He said, “The world will be saved by the western woman.” It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, the Divine Feminine can come through.

TW: I noticed Wizard of Oz is represented in the ‘No Place like Om’ quilt. Can you tell me more about this piece?
MAB: I came up with the idea when I was homeless. It’s about finding your way home. The Tibetans were kicked out of their home, and Dorothy is trying to find her way home. There’s a charm which says “Home, Sweet Home.” Like in Impressionism, there’s the whole image that you notice when you’re ten feet away, and then for the people who like that image enough to come up close, I want to give them presents. So you will see different little things like ruby slippers, Tibetan turquoise stones, and Glenda the Good Witch as the Goddess Tara.

TW: The exhibit at d’Art includes 42 artists from 20 states. How does art unify people?
MAB: I think we’re living in a time where people need more beauty to feel stabilized. I feel textile art is powerful because it has the archetype of thread. This show ‘Material’ is about women weaving the threads of life. The matri-focal Divine Feminine perspective is about healing and weaving things together. We need to create love, compassion, and a safety net in our lives. There are a lot of wounded souls that can benefit from healing through beauty and archetypes of wholeness.

For more information:

• d’Art Center - www.d-artcenter.org

• Meet Meryl Ann at the Author Fair at Slover Library on March 3-4, 2018. For more information about Meryl Ann or to sign up for a class, visit www.OceanViewArts.com or call 757-961-0808.

Lisa Bowditch graduated from ODU with a Master’s in literature. Currently she teaches middle-school students with disabilities in Newport News. She likes hiking in isolated places and helping out at her family’s business, The Hornsby House Inn in Yorktown.

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