Inner Chamber — a collective art making exercise at the Gardner Museum

I’m please to be part of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s new “Sanctuary Series” with a workshop of meditation and art making that provides a unique experience within the museum’s collection and provides tools for synthesizing the barrage of mass media imagery that fills our daily lives.

“Inner Chamber”, part of the Gardner’s Sanctuary Series
Sunday, March 6, 2:30-4pm
Register in advance.

As a young child I was “diagnosed” as having an over active imagination. This was my parents way of soothing me back to sleep after a particularly realistic nightmare.  This “superpower” as I now like to see it, the ability to imagine what isn’t there, is closely correlated with imagining what could happen or what is to come in the future. It is the power of imagination. And when not harnessed properly it can lead to useless worry.

It is also the power of empathy.

After learning to recognize the difference between dreams and reality I next had to content with the nagging worry about what could happen in real life – especially when it came to human suffering. I vividly remember crying myself to sleep worrying about the starving Ethiopian children Sally Struthers showed me on TV. “Only a dollar a day”, she’d plead. I didn’t have a dollar. What would happen to the children if I didn’t find them money?

“Figure out where you can help. You can’t fix all the world’s problems” came the words of advice from my father. To my 10-year-old brain it seemed cruel and heartless.

But it makes sense now. I am about the age of my dad then. Learning to acknowledge pain and suffering and then letting it go continues to be a challenge but the practice of meditation proves useful. So has identifying where I can contribute to “the greater good”. Right now I think it’s through public art.

In the upcoming “Inner Chamber” workshop on March 6 at the Gardner I’ll lead us through a guided meditation into our own inner room where we can confront our worries and fears, and then let them go. I’m thrilled to offer this experience in the Gardner’s Gothic Room with Mrs. Gardner’s portrait painted by John Singer Sargent not far from us. 

Following the meditation we’ll create a mandala of peace using violent and disturbing images collected from print media between November and February  – many of which illustrate recent gun violence.  The form we’ll create takes its design from the silhouettes of both a revolver and the Gothic Room’s Wheel Window.

It is my hope that we’ll walk away from this exercise better equipped to handle the barrage of negative mass media images, have a healthy conversation about where and how we can help, and in the end create a meaningful work of art.

The workshop is limited to 15 people; ages 15 and up. The cost is $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and $10 for members and students. Advanced registration is strongly suggested.