As the title of this upcoming show suggests, Chasing Francis, St. Francis of Assisi has recently held a deep fascination and led a whole new direction of personal study. On researching this 12th-century character (yes, he has been dead for over 1,000 years) I have found so many similarities between the self-centred, corrupt world of then and now. And he had the drive and guts to speak out and take action against the iniquities that were so prevalent.
After a significant life changing event and pivotal decision, Francis took a stand: to help the poor and needy; to be in tune with the environment, and devote himself to a pure account of his faith. This resulted in a dislocation from the ostentation, pretence and corruption that was so rife through their version of the church and middle class. And further, led to his far deeper appreciation of beauty and creation than anyone else of his time, and was an inspirational figure in reforming many of the wrongs of his world.
Here is the Artist Statement which will be appearing with my show:
My immediate past has centred on grief, lament and loss; personally and societal.
Increasingly my creative energy was absorbed by the imminent passing of my mother and a terminally ill childhood friend. As I emerged from the anguish of their passing, I focussed more positively on the aspects of life: theirs and ours. To celebrate beauty and praise.
Researching the life of St. Francis of Assisi became inspirational. He went through the lowest of lows: “The miserable emptiness of his life suddenly appeared before him; he was terrified at his solitude, Memories of his past assailed him with intolerable bitterness …In such hours of moral anguish, we seek refuge either in love or faith. By a holy violence he was to arrive at last at a pure and virile faith …”
In that pure faith, he found beauty: “When he found an abundance of flowers, he preached to them and invited them to praise the Lord as though they were endowed with reason. In the same way he exhorted with the sincerest purity cornfields and vineyards, stones and forest and all the beautiful things of the fields, fountains of water,… earth and fire, air and wind, to love God and serve him willingly. Finally, he called all creatures brother … he discerned the hidden things of nature with his sensitive heart, as one who had already escaped into the freedom of the glory of the sons of God.”
St. Francis was one of the original radical environmentalists and creatives, way before the invention of those terms. For a man to have gotten this right so long ago deserves our respect and focused attention.