Star of the Sea, Guide Us Home

"Star Of The Sea, Guide Us Home"

It’s been awhile since I created a piece that stirred my soul so deeply. It was a submission to an exhibit at Viewpoints Gallery on Maui called “Ho’olohe i ke Kai, Listen to the Ocean, February 1 – March 12, 2014. This is a snapshot I took at the gallery; better photo to come. Here’s my write-up on the piece..

“Star of the Sea, Guide Us Home”

Personal history and universal human experience merge in this mixed media assemblage that began as an inquiry into my own lifelong relationship with the sea. Because the sea has been an almost constant presence in my life, I didnʻt realize its significance until some years later when, riding through mountainous terrain on a cross-country bicycle trip, I felt the absence of the distant horizon. Something about the simple meeting of sky and water in a single line communicated with me in a way that nothing else did; infinity was spread out before me anytime I cared to look.

Also woven into the fabric of the storyline is the question: “What or where is home?” Is home a place we set down roots within a community, is it the house we live in and the people who dwell beside us, or is home simply a state of mind?

I entered into conversation with these subjects of sea and home by engaging with particular seascapes from my distant and recent past that have, throughout my life, provided a feeling of sanctuary, of being at home. I chose to use weathered wood, faded paint, as well as rusted and patinated metal to set the tone of salty air and sea spray. Images of Sullivanʻs Island (near Charleston, SC) and Pilale Bay (near Haiku, Maui) became my points of entry.

The ensuing journey to completion of the piece was long and meandering, with new discoveries awaiting me at every turn. I love this process of responding to, of dancing with a piece of art and allowing it to take on a life of its own. Letting intuition lead all the way, my ‘job’ was to follow clues as they presented themselves and to take note when ‘puzzle pieces’ fell into place. Surprising elements came into play; I discovered that the sleepy island of Sullivanʻs Island was the site of disembarkation for 40% of enslaved Africans who were brought to U.S. shores against their will. I learned that in 2008, author Toni Morrison led a procession to dedicate a “bench by the road” near the Sullivanʻs Island shore to honor the spirit of these African ancestors. I remembered that just across the street from this dedication site is a church called Stella Maris (Star of the Sea), and that long ago, there was a beacon within the dome of the church that helped guide seamen to shore. I recalled the feeling of “going home” for the last time as we gathered around mama during her final months of life. As always, Sullivanʻs Island was a place I could go to clear my mind and open my heart during this sadness. All of these events inform the first two parts of the triptych. The third brings my life on Maui into play. For twenty-two years I lived in a quiet rural neighborhood, with its heart at Pilale Bay. My art studio overlooked the gulch and stream that fed into the bay and was my window to gentle, glowing sunrises; much of my art was birthed here. So many life transitions were experienced from the vantage point of this house on the bay. Once again I had a sanctuary, a place to be still, to watch the seasons change through the action of the waves in summer, fall, winter, spring. There is a mango grove at one end of the bay with a grand, soft green pathway leading to a dim, quiet forest with ancient Hawaiian sites, swaying trees, and the sound of waves receding from the rocky shore. I took this photograph of the stream and bay just before I moved away from the neighborhood so many years later; it is an honoring of this most exquisite jewel.

Seagulls and ʻiwa birds, sand dollars and ʻopihi shells, the calm southern Atlantic with its dramatic tides, and the wild, tumultuous north shore Pacific waters are all a part of the deep sense of home that resides within me. It is important, I think, to honor these places that enrich who we are and inform who we are to become. They help guide and support us through the cycles of our lives. They connect us to those who came before us and to those who will follow.

About Beth Marcil

Beth Marcil is a well-recognized Maui artist who also leads SoulCollage® workshops and Visual Journaling as well as private coaching sessions. She blends her many years of art training with her love of healing and the creative process.

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