By MAIA SCOTT
This post was written as an assignment for Professor Cindy Shearer’s CIA 7091, Interdisciplinary Arts Workshop. As part of a community of artists working across art perspectives, students in this course get the chance to present their work and teach each other about their art form(s), practice, lineage and influences, and are challenged to inquire into the interdisciplinary arts as well as forms new to them.
Some ten years ago, I accidentally discovered the joy of walking around in circles during a theater workshop. Don’t worry. Lots of people do it. In the early nineties, walking labyrinths started to become a popular addendum to spiritual, communal, and holistic practices all over the United States and beyond. Initially walked during private training retreats with the likes of Jeanne Houston, the labyrinth touched public fancy when San Francisco’s own Dr. Rev. Lauren Artress set one up at Grace Cathedral and started training facilitators. Like a happy case of freckles, labyrinths continue to dot the continent with greater regularity, sweeping across the nation. (Visit the World Wide Labyrinth Locator to learn about labyrinths near you.)
Popular modern labyrinth design and lore weaves back through history from around 2000 BC. As I stepped barefoot onto a painted canvas labyrinth during that first walk, I realized I was accepting a timeless gift. Really, how often do people receive permission to touch a work of art, let alone walk all over one? It takes a lot of love and patience to create today’s behemoth canvas masterworks. The Freemasons of yesteryear chiseled labyrinths ripe with numerological mysticism into medieval sanctuary floors for pilgrims with a serious case of wanderlust. Warp back another couple thousand years and trade goods on the isle of Knossos for coins featuring a labyrinth design. Like good tea and yogic practices, walking the labyrinth is one of those old habits made new again. Sometimes it’s a good thing when history repeats itself.
As an art maker, spirit seeker and forward thinker, the labyrinth is a valuable tool for my varied creative practices. To start, I am set up for success as I traverse this path with no dead ends, spiraling to the center and back. Like a vigorous bout of spring cleaning, I appreciate the invitation to empty mind-space of clutter making way for shiny new thoughts. As a facilitator holding space for other walkers, I love the gentle choreography generated by the design on the floor leading people to move through space differently than may be usual.
I feel joyfully mischievous when I draw a big labyrinth on the beach and run away with a friend to witness from nearby as people discover it. Whether the design is five inches or fifty feet in diameter, the process of creating a labyrinth can be a poignant experience in its own “rite”. Drawing a Classical style labyrinth is deceptively easy to do. If you’ve ever played “Connect the Dots” as a child, you can figure it out. Any sort of tool will do for creating them. Try digging a heel into the sand at the beach, chalking one in a parking lot, forming a pattern on a table out of toothpicks or pennies… and, yeah, pens and paper work nicely, too. For example I designed and created the labyrinths pictured with this post.
The labyrinth remains my primary muse as I journey through my studies at CIIS. I am fascinated by the opportunity to create art that, like the labyrinth, comes to life and becomes a multi-media experience affected by the people interacting with it. I want to create works that inspire peace, pondering, play or whatever viewers need to experience at the moment.
This four-thousand year old swirly thing has taught me a lot over the years, quietly doling out wisdom as I become ready to learn. The path looks like it will deposit me at the center right off. Yet, I have to wander all the way out to the edge again to eventually reach the center. How like life that is. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing…During that first walk over ten years ago I learned to embrace the process of reaching my goals. “The journey is the reward.” Indeed it is.