Penny Postcard From the Edge of GloryI struck gold this weekend. Not the mining, dig it out of the mountain kind of gold. Not the Super Bowl vanquishing the enemy kind of gold. Not the insanely lopsided odds winning a jackpot kind of gold. Nope, the gold I uncovered glittered among the vineyards and along the broad main street of a quaint central  coast California town. Consummate retreat convenor Connie Rohde, owner of the C Gallery in Los Alamos, hosted a weekend art retreat “Finding the Gold Within” featuring writing, collage and gold leaf. That’s the gold I found.

Accomplished teacher and writer Sharron Luft guided us through the write, rewrite, and read process of mining our memories for imagery that might inspire an autobiographical artwork in gold leaf and collage. Sharon Tate, who currently teaches painting classes at the C Gallery, demonstrated the delicate application of gold leaf to our 12×12 red oxide primed gallery canvases. No pick ax or shovels allowed in exploring this gold application. The 5 1/2 ” squares of gold leaf are exceedingly fragile. It takes a delicate hand to lift and transfer each sheet from packet to canvas. And a delicate hand to smoothly adhere the leaf with a gentle stroking of a soft brush. Pieces tear, holes are patched, crumbs gathered and reapplied. Bits of deep rust under-painting peek through the gold after burnishing the whole golden surface with cheesecloth. All in all, a lovely, soothing tactile experience. And not unlike the fragile metaphors of an applied life that allow our darkness to show through the gold.

As a group we wrote and talked about mothers, the tears of childhood missteps, homes, hunger and blessing, communion, betrayal and burnout. These themes found their way into the imagery of our collages. The Saturday evening rewrite session refined our stories, providing a sense of focus and closure with our unfolding, unfinished stories.

My Friday night write was related to another collage begun before the retreat, but provided a natural arc to the “aha” images that presented themselves as the beginning place of Saturday morning’s creativity. Based on a decades old experience of betrayal, each unique piece of the collage is symbolic of a fuller part of the story. A “roosterish” image in the upper left represents the denial of truth, akin to the cock’s crowing each time Peter denied the Truth. A ball of yarn, wound from the gauze bandage binding the wounds of a vulnerable child, reminds me that even our worst experiences can be transformed to usefulness somewhere, some how, some way in the future. Based on a story told long ago, the red cardinal has long been for me an abiding image of God’s love. A 1910 penny postcard greeting to my toddler mother, the red-breasted robin, a harbinger of spring when all seems dead in wintery despair, looks toward the raw edge of “Glory” that exploits evil for His redemptive purpose – thereby producing a complex good.

Ah, the gold of the complex good. C. S. Lewis writes about it in his book The Problem of Pain. It has become a profound theological comfort to me over the last twenty years. When life sucks, and I despair of a sweet tasting sucker to savor, I have learned to look for the complex good in all circumstances. It may not appear when, where or how I think it should, but it’s great that’s not up to me. Because when it shows up, it’s always better than what I could have imagined. It’s always pure gold.

 If you were to write a memoir episode, what experience would you write about? What would be its beginning, middle and end? If there is a “complex good” thread of gold running through your story, what is it? If you were to create a gold leaf collage of your story, what images would you include?

Looking forward to your nuggets of gold!


2 comments to Gold

  • My gold thread is the ability to recover from sinking down. I used to rage, now I retreat, but both are harmful. I am happy that I have people around me who help me to make those low moments brief. The story of my collage is all about those people. I have made two self portrait collages in the past and neither one includes any of the dark moments, which surely have shaped me, but somehow don’t merit a spot on the art work.

    (P.S. Gold leaf is great on polymer clay!)

    xx Robin

  • The clarity I gleaned from the workshop ladies and instructors was full of light and helped so much. It caused a glow within like gold. Thank-you Lynne for your insights, your faith, your art, your process….and also for including The C Gallery in your blog entry. God is so good to me through you. xo Connie

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