It was the fall of 2018 and I was exhausted in every sense of the word. Mother to three, trying to be true to my artistic practice, being a pastor’s wife, maintaining relationships with family and friends, volunteering in my children’s schools and on top of all that, running a small business – a brick and mortar art and poetry showroom, Studio Haiku. I was beyond drained.
Vigils: Pre-Dawn | Liturgy of the Hours Series
Unfortunately my artistic practice had become a series of what I had deemed “difficult births.” The creative energy was present, but the joy and celebration in the arrival was waning. I felt relief and deep gratitude for a fleeting moment when I had completed something, but then the labor pains began again for the next project. I had not scheduled in any pause or rest between deadlines. So many labor pains, and less and less energy to drawn from as time went on. I cried out to the Spirit for relief, and then I would press on. Another project, another body of work…I kept pressing forward. I kept asking for rest.
In an effort to paint without the pressure of performance or a specific outcome, I arranged a painting trip to Mexico. I had been working with a gallery in San José del Cabo, Mexico, and over the years I planned each trip around a solo show or a workshop that I would be teaching. This time however, I wanted the trip to be about painting for the joy of it – no deadlines, no expectations. Nothing required of me. I would just paint, relax, enjoy the beauty of Mexico and later deliver whatever paintings I had completed to the gallery. It sounded easy, restful. No grueling labor pains or difficult births required.
That did not happen.
I work in encaustic, a beeswax and damar resin medium, which entails painting layers of medium on a birch panel in an effort to build up the surface of the painting. So to prepare for my easy going painting week in Mexico, months beforehand I prepared and primed seven large panels with many, many layers of encaustic medium in an effort to finish what can be the most time consuming portion of the process. After I had completed most of the under painting, I had the panels shipped to Mexico, where I would bring the paintings to completion.
Upon my arrival, I met the gallery owner to discuss what work I would be delivering to her at the end of my trip. She excitedly told me that the timing of my trip was perfect because many of her clients were currently in the area. She immediately asked if I would be open to doing a formal solo show the following week. I knew that meant producing a cohesive body of work, having a formal opening, and presenting my work along with an artist’s talk. As she excitedly laid out her plan, I felt a “yes” rise up from within me. What was happening? In an out-of-body moment, I agreed.
Back at the studio, I was condemning myself for agreeing to what seemed to be the stark opposite of what I actually went to Mexico for in the first place. Frustrated with myself and my weak constitution, I had nothing to do but began painting. I painted day and night, nearly eighteen hours a day. As I continued to build up the layers of paint, I trusted that something thematic would emerge, as now I had committed to showing a body of work in just ten days. I wasn’t sure how everything was going to tie together. And of course my artist’s talk would come from the theme, so I couldn’t quite work on that yet, either. I prayed, I prayed, I prayed. Painting and praying. Painting and praying. Praying and soon enough, crying.
It was just three days before the opening night of the show and still no theme, no central subject. No cohesive imagery that I could see. I had been translating a Japanese sewing art, sashiko, into many of the paintings through a drawing process, but pursuing the subject of Japanese pattern work as the theme did not settle with me, as hard as I pushed. I began to feel intense panic and was honestly scared at this point. I was crying out to God. “Why is this happening to me? Why did I say yes to this? I thought I would be able to rest! To paint without pressure. Now I’m so tired and anxious and my back is against the wall. Why did I say yes to this??” I berated myself. What to do now?
I had finished five paintings. I could see no common thread between them apart from each painting containing elements of nature. Five paintings were not enough for a full show and I knew it. But how could I pull them together and add more work in just a few days? How would I talk about them? Where was my theme? All I could think about was how scared I felt with the threat of failure and embarrassment so near, and how physically tired I was from all the late nights. My thinking was clouded by the stress.
All I wanted was to rest. To lay my tired body and heart down, and to not get up again. I walked out of the studio with my books and journals, found a chair in the sun overlooking the Sea of Cortez and crumpled into a teary ball. I was so frustrated with myself. I opened a book I was working through, called The Artist’s Rule, by Christine Valters Paintner. I turned to the chapter I had just begun, entitled “Sacred Rhythms for Creative Renewal.” The chapter opened up with a quote by Linda Leonard, reading,
“A major obstacle to creativity is in wanting to be in the peak season of growth and generation at all times…but if we see the soul’s journey as cyclical, like the seasons…then we can accept the reality that periods of despair or fallowness are like winter – a resting time that offers us a period of creative hibernation, purification and regeneration that prepares us for the births of spring.”
The words stung. The chapter was all about creating space for rest and renewal. I rolled my eyes bitterly and thought, “This isn’t helping me right now! I don’t have time to rest! I already know I need to, but I am in panic mode!”
I read on and a quote from J. Phillip Newell was another uncomfortable exposure of my weakened heart.
“If we fail to establish regular practices of stillness and rest, our creativity will be either exhausted or shallow. Our countenance, instead of reflecting a vitality of fresh creative energy that is sustained by the restorative depths of stillness, will be listless or frenetic. This is as true collectively as it is individually, and applies as much to human creativity as it does to the earth’s fruitfulness. Creativity without rest, and productivity without renewal, leads to an exhaustion of our inner resources.”
As I read on, the chapter expounded on seasons of rest and offered wonderful prescriptives for resting in God and creating space for pause throughout each day. One such recommendation by Valters Paintner was the “…ancient tradition of praying the Liturgy of the Hours, with its seven holy pauses.” This ancient call to pray and praise seven times throughout the day is based on Psalms 119:164. The Liturgy of the Hours begins in the pre-dark dawn, and ends in the dark of night. It is a rhythm of pausing, and a gratuitous invitation to rest throughout our day.
My mind was contemplating the invitation, but still threaten by my immediate circumstances. I continued to read the author’s wisdom,
“Creativity depends on the waning times for restoration…In cultivating our creativity, times of rest are essential. Pushing ourselves to the edge of exhaustion does not nurture the creative process in the long run.”
“Very funny!” I said angrily to God. “I’ve been telling you how tired I am, and now you’re again inviting me to rest and that’s the last thing I have time for right now! Why did I say yes to this? I am up against the wall, I am panicking, I have no idea how to pull this all together, and I I have two days to do it all in. I NEED YOU. I need you to show up for me right now. I know I need to rest and be still, but I don’t know how to actually do that right now.” I was confused. I was blaming myself for getting into a tight spot again, a bad habit for which I didn’t know how to break. But I still had enough hope and belief in God’s goodness to ask Him to make a way for me. He had shown up for me before, and I believed he would do it again. I tried to push aside the crippling worry and continued to pray for a way to be made.
I walked back into my studio area and surveyed the five completed paintings. What I saw before me brought me to my knees. Unseen by me until that very moment, each painting was of a different time of day. There was a painting of pre-dawn, complete with a dark and starry sky, with just enough light to see a field of grasses beginning to awaken. There was dawn, a sliver of gold sun peeking over the horizon. There was a high-noon piece with a full and beautiful Japanese-red sun, hanging bold over the bright and active sea. There was a painting of the dark night, which would become Compline, complete with a warm glowing moon rising above the flora and fauna of Mexico. And Vespers, the evening pause near twilight, had a sliver of moon at the top of the painting. I added a sliver of a setting sun to the bottom and it was perfectly complete – the in between time contained visually. Each of the five completed paintings fit perfectly into the times set for the Liturgy of the Hours. These paintings had come into completion before I read about the Liturgy of the Hours! I was absolutely aghast. The two other times of day left to paint, None (afternoon) and Terce (morning), were left for me to begin with the fresh and miraculous joy of what had just transpired. I would no longer be creating out of exhaustion and anxiousness, but from the knowledge of a holy partnership and miracle I was experiencing. God was with me. We had been painting in partnership. I could rest, knowing He was at my creative helm. The shame of my saying “yes” melted away as I saw God at work amidst my weakness.
I was undone. I’m not exactly sure how to communicate what transpired in my heart at that point, but it was one of the holiest moments I had ever experienced. The God of the Universe met me, met my needs, met my anxious heart, met me in the most tangible way, with the most miraculous and generous gift. My work was to rest in Him, trusting in the co-creation I had just witnessed.
Though I still needed to pull an all-nighter to finish the last two pieces by opening night, I was carried by the grace of God. The show’s theme was clearly the Liturgy of the Hours. Seven large paintings to reflect the seven holy pauses. The unfolding experience made the most amazing artist talk on opening night, as I told the gallery attendants just exactly what had happened. On a warm Baja night, the invitation to rest was before each of us – profound and holy, a visible manifestation of the miraculous power of a loving God, who meets us, who creates with us, beyond generously, in our time of need.
Liturgy of the Hours – Pez Gordo Gallery | San José del Cabo, Baja, Mexico
Three years later and I am still learning how to rest. For me, the “exhaustion of inner resources” comes quickly when I insist on drawing from my own strength, from creating out of my own silo of being and from dwelling in false shame. Since that experience in the Baja, I discover daily that rest is trust. I can trust that I am co-creating with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Rest is also knowing that truly, my weaknesses make room for God’s glory. My weakness makes space for a miracle. That is a hard one to believe, but it is true. When I’m in the studio I remind myself that we are making things together and I can trust that. Then I’m gifted a restful spirit, because trust is rest; the doorway into true creative partnership with the Spirit.
This experience also opened up the door for me to accept that my very own winter season was coming. God made a way and in the spring of 2020 I closed my business and studio. I would take the next year off. I could “see the soul’s journey as cyclical, like the seasons” and was given much courage to embrace the fallowness that would soon arrive. Just before God would ask me to close the studio, I created a series of encaustic and Japanese paper vases that held dried winter grasses and plants, entitled Nature at Rest. It was a prophetic co-creation that made the closing of the studio less painful. I knew from those small sculptures and dried winter botanicals that a fallow season was an essential part of life and quite beautiful in its own way. Again, the generosity and provision of God was astounding!
It’s now October of 2021 and We are working on a show with a deadline that looms very near. I am holding these reflections tightly as I am invited once again to walk though this doorway of rest and trust, believing that God will once again have ample space amidst my weakness. May these invitations be yours as well.
Rest and trust be yours,
Please visit https://abbeyofthearts.com to learn more about author and artist and online abbess, Christine Valters Paintner.
P.S. Images of the Liturgy of the Hours series can be found here
and you can read in more detail about the closing of the studio and the artwork that accompanied that decision here: Studio Haiku to close and a diorama to remind
Naturalness + Simplicity
encaustic, mixed media on panel
©Natalie Salminen Rude
“I believe this need of wilderness is inherent in most of us, even those seemingly farthest removed from it by civilized living. The cities may cover it up, make us forget temporarily; but deep underneath is an inherent urge for naturalness and simplicity and a way of life different from the one we know.” – Sigurd F. Olson
Culture of Sensitivity | encaustic, mixed media on panel 11×14 2021 ©Natalie Salminen Rude
You’ll find my first body of work after a year’s pause, Freshness of Perception, at Fika Coffee in Lutsen, Minnesota, during the months of July and August 2021. As I wrote the show’s artist statement, I was glad for the cohesion of so many ideas I’ve been ruminating on this year. Not only have I not painted this past year, but I have also taken a year’s break from social media and the “hustle.” What spaciousness. ( I’ll be writing more on that to be sure. )
The new show’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness imagery and the paired quotations (from Minnesota conservationist Sigurd F. Olson) work in tandem, as you’ll see. I hope you can make your way up the lovely north shore to take in these artworks, 16 new paintings in all (!) and taste the goodness that Fika Coffee serves its community.
AND if that wasn’t gift enough, Fika asked the director of the Grand Marais Art Colony, Ruth Pszwaro, to write a piece on the show for their blog. I had the pleasure to sit down with her and chat about the new work and much more. Pszwaro’s gift of writing is inspiring. You can read about our interview and soulful conversation here.
Turned to Gold | encaustic, mixed media on panel 8×10 2021 ©Natalie Salminen Rude
FRESHNESS OF PERCEPTION
new encaustic work set to the wisdom of Sigurd F. Olson
There seems to be an amorphous spirit in the air these days that gets quite agitated when it is not able to quantify the things of this world that can only carry human sensibilities. Take for instance a trip into the wilderness or a sit to watch the extraordinary horizon of our big lake. There is no data to be mined from a weekend of woodland play, joyful sunset watching, or the lifting of mist from silent waters. Whatever things cannot be easily quantified in our human experiences are being ever so subtly suppressed. Have you noticed?
I propose that the work before us is to enter into our very human experiences of adventure and feeling which cannot be counted, measured or monetized. Together, may we resist all that strives to strip us of our humanity, all that works to convert the spirit into something quantifiable. Cold data we are not. We are living beings – created to be in harmony with the natural world and with one another. Enjoying, being, resting and playing alongside whatever our good labor may be.
This is why the work of local nature writer, conservationist, and advocate Sigurd F. Olson continues to call to us even more so today. His prophetic work and perseverance in the face of opposition is why we are able to enjoy our north country today. He reminds us of our need to be “nourished again” by the natural world, without which we lose our dignity and purpose, especially in light of the ever shifting demands of our data-driven and technocratic societies. Deep within nature we will always find true meaning. As a former canoe guide in the BWCA, I know firsthand what the unquantifiable things of the wilderness can gift us with. May these paintings bring you a “freshness of perception” as you consider delighting in all that cannot be quantified. Here in the quiet woods, where value is placed on your presence alone.
At Times on Quiet Waters | encaustic, mixed media on panel 16×48 2021 © Natalie Salminen Rude
Update! Has a year passed since I’ve closed the studio? Just about. I’ve been thinking since then…pulling my pressed-to-the-glass face back so that I can see, aching for the big picture – that we’ve somehow lost sight of, especially this year. I’ve been largely away from all things digital/social media. I have been present with those given back hours – spending them on my children, on walking daily, on planting fall bulbs, on being quiet. How refreshing it has been. To stop and think. To refrain from consuming with such intensity. To slow. To consider what has been consumed. To turn a thought, over and over.
I’m ready to begin working again. I’m setting up a new studio space. We will see each other soon! Sunshine and fresh faces.
“Courage is the ability to cultivate a relationship with the unknown; to create a form of friendship with what lies around the corner over the horizon – with those things that have not yet fully come into being.”
– David Whyte
As my brick and mortar shop is closing, an inventory clearance sale is in order! Shop online and on my instagram stories over the next few days.
SALE runs May 6-10th, 2020.
Help me spread the word! I’ll be taking some time off this summer to rest and to listen for what’s next for me. There will be more original work coming in time – this I know. At this point in the Covid-19 journey, I have decided to sell my current inventory and have no immediate plans for re-ordering note cards or haiku prints. Please stock up if you are able!
THANK YOU for your continued support and for championing the arts and artists like myself. You make the creative world go round. As I embark on a new artistic journey (read about how I made the decision to close Studio Haiku here), I would love to have you stay close. I’ll send out an update as the unfolding and resting in the unknowns continue…
I have so many great things in the studio…prints, framed and unframed, original encaustic paintings, small sculptures, walnut vases, cards, haiku cards and other printed goodies…reach out via email or dm on instagram if I can be of any help. xo
Haa Haa Black Sheep emerged as I struggled to make sense of a bittersweet conclusion I had reached. It was time to close my beloved brick and mortar art studio, Studio Haiku.
It was in processing the closure that this piece emerged. Sadly, I had not been able to create anything for most of the previous nine months, as a confusing and stress-fueled weariness had earlier in the year overtaken me. With all my commitments, my energy had been divided and my creative energy was suffering to say the least.
As the image came into being, it was clear that I was dancing with a misplaced shame, a black sheep if you will. This shame haunted me with many accusations, whispering vehemently, “If only you were smarter, savvier, had more energy, were more organized, more clear-headed, more goal oriented, data driven, professionally minded, more ____ (fill in the blank), then you could make this all work!” But my body was telling me a different story. A bone-deep exhaustion had crept into my being. I knew I needed rest, but I just wasn’t sure exactly how to. Over the winter I longed to give into the invitation, but the expectations I had been holding up for myself were keeping me from the surrender I desperately needed. I wrestled myself into a depression.
It was apparent that I could not “do it all” – parent my three children, be a supportive spouse, friend, family member, community member, church member, volunteer, artist, retail shop and studio owner, and social media manager – without sacrificing my health and creative spirit. As I began to say yes to rest and reflection, and as I began to say no to busy-ness, and as I began to stay home in order to quiet myself (pre our governor mandated stay-at-home order), a generous space was made for clarity. And it was clear. What in the world had ever possessed me to think that I could actually do all of those things AT THE SAME TIME and still hold onto my sanity? Where was I getting this message that we, especially as women, should be able to do all the things – and do them well? The clarity was painful. I had thought myself immune – surely I was outside the grasp of our hurried societal evils – I led haiku workshops on mindfulness for goodness sake! But with space and time to help me see and listen, it was obvious that I had fallen for the lie. The pervasive societal and capitalistic pressure that says we are what we do and if we do more, then certainly we must be more. What a myth.
As the composition unfolded, the black sheep (symbolizing shame and depression) was initially being carried on the shoulders of the child (myself), but as I continued to work with the piece, the black sheep migrated beneath the feet of the child and a victor’s pose emerged – “Haa Haa, Black Sheep!” I would no longer be under the grind culture spell. As many elements of the piece found their place, I realized that Psalm 23 had been guiding the imagery. This psalm had accompanied me throughout the past year as I walked through the valley of the shadow of depression and weariness. The child’s sweet innocence speaks to my being a child of God, and to my recent, fresh invitation and acceptance of that truth. God takes care of me like a loving parent that cares deeply for their small child, like a shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine in search of the one. The flowers in her hand bring to mind a continued innocence as she hunts for and finds beauty, wonder and provision, “in the presence of her enemies (our cultural obsession with production, efficiency and the marketplace).
The black encaustic doilies are a reference to the felt failings that shadowed my daily life in domesticity as well as in my artistic and business practices. Though the black background refers to the “valley of the shadow of the death,” the moss and gentle garden beneath the child are a gratifying expression of rest, referenced in the first verse of the psalm “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” This is the rest that was inviting me. This was the rest that was calling me, luring me with hibernating butterflies and fallow, winter weeds. This is my path to follow. Closing the studio is the about following this path, strange and upside down and business backward as it may seem.
The angels above the child refers to God’s consistent reminder of the angels in my life, and my invitation to call them in prayer to their work of ministering to the children of God. Lastly, the star ceiling. My healing came in the night. Months of prayers and pleas from family and friends led to golden bowls of prayers tipping in fullness during a March night. I awoke the next morning with a Lightness in the very center of my chest, replacing the crushing heaviness that had previously tormented me with sadness and despair. I was given a true miracle in my body, a true release. True rest from the absurd shame. So much unfolding! So much becoming.
Deciding to close the retail component of my studio has been the bittersweet, yet strangely courageous choice to simplify my life for the sake of my health and ultimately my artistic practice. Looking into the future, I believe my decision today will be the absolute best thing for my creative essence to flourish. The fact that this art work was born from that decision is the first beautiful bloom in what I hope will be the garden of my life’s most meaningful work. Though much of the symbolism carried in this diorama speaks to the facets of shame that I wrongly carried, more so it sings to the pivotal freedom and truth I have been gifted in a crystallizing exchange.
Psalm 46: 4-11 MSG | These verses have also felt like companions to this piece and this season of my life. God plants flowers and trees all over the earth and also bans war, destroys weapon. He is tender, nurturing, and protective as a provoked mother bear. As the nations rant, God is giant and steady. He is all the comforts of a safe-home, a haven for the weak. He nourishes us with the most tender beauty for our dangerous journey. Today, amidst the global pandemic of Covid-19, these words weave promise directly into the unknown. As we find ourselves in lock-down with uncertainty lurking, we are invited to be still and know there is protection and peace for us. Beauty and certainty are in the unseen. The end of violence is near. The trees will soon clap their hands. We are invited to rest.
“River fountains splash joy, cooling God’s city, this sacred haunt of the Most High. God lives here, the streets are safe, God at your service from crack of dawn. Godless nations rant and rave, kings and kingdoms threaten, but Earth does anything he says. Jacob-wrestling God fights for us, God of angel armies protects us. Attention, all! See the marvels of God! He plants flowers and trees all over the earth, Bans war from pole to pole, breaks all the weapons across his knee. “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.” Jacob-wrestling God fights for us, God of angel armies protects us.”
It was a joy to be able to share my new body of work, mono no aware at Lizzards Art Gallery in Duluth, Minnesota. Thank you to everyone who came out! The show runs from August 8th – September 28th, 2019. The artist statement truly reflects the spirit of the work. I hope you enjoy it.
Mono no aware is the Japanese term for the wistful awareness of impermanence. At the passing of all things, a gentle grief may be present, but the accompanying wistfulness is what heightens the appreciation for what is beautiful, even if transient. In this new body of encaustic work by Natalie Salminen Rude, the sense of mono no aware is present in these poignant images of the natural world. They are moments composed. In pairing down the imagery to their essence, Salminen Rude composes visual haiku with each painting – distilling the ephemeral essence within the landscapes and botanic compositions with color, line and empathy. Landscapes familiar to our northern region resonate with season, horizon lines, moments of dusk, patterns in light, tree and pond edge. Mono no aware travels further into Salminen Rude’s resonance with the Japanese aesthetic, as she continues to find it deeply harmonic to her sense of the world.
To see the full body of work from mono no aware click here.
UWS | 125 years
Join the University of Wisconsin-Superior in celebrating their 125th year!
Group Alumni Show | Kruk Gallery
June 11, 2019 | 5-8 pm
I’m pleased to be showing my most recent sculptural work, featuring hand drawn plat maps of Duluth encased in encaustic – now artifacts. My artist statement considers this: Technology as Conquistador.
when we’re overthrown
please take directions
encaustic, hand-drawn plat map artifacts, found objects, dried botanicals, 23kt gold leaf
June 4, 2019
Opening 5-8 pm
Duluth Art Institute
bare efficiency / currency of greatest worth / conquistadors know
Strata Show Artist Talk – Duluth Art Institute, April 2019
human flourishing // are we paying attention // extermination
when we’re overthrown //
values illuminated //
please take directions
when we’re overthrown / values illuminated / please take directions
MORE DETAILS FROM THIS SERIES FOUND HERE
Hi, everyone! I’m currently preparing to host a thought-provoking, awakening conversation at my gallery. Studio Haiku is welcoming Libby John of the Art & Faith Conversations podcast for a live recording of “Life in Haiku.” With this podcast Libby will ask questions and explore the joys and challenges of how art and faith intersect in life as we talk about the art of haiku through interviews, stories and sharing experiences.
Update // We had a wonderful time together! It was a full house and much fun. This podcast is now up. Here’s a lovely description from the Art and Faith Conversations Episode Notes:
“This live podcast episode was recorded at Studio Haiku in Duluth, MN. My guest, Natalie Salminen Rude, is a visual artist who specializes in encaustic style painting and has also been practicing the art of haiku for several years. We talk in depth about the invitational nature of haiku that can lead us into conversations with our Creator. Natalie shares with us how it has informed and influenced her creativity and also shaped her prayer life. Haiku has shown Natalie the value of pausing and taking notice of the present, even when life feels chaotic or confusing. She shares tips on how to get started writing haiku and also shares several of her own in this episode.”
As the seasons change, so do we.
Spring arrives truly
Weak knee’d in their petal wake
Under lilac spell
Much is changing, altering, bending and arching toward the sun — both in nature and at Studio Haiku, which has now been open in Duluth, MN, for almost one and a half years! Much has taken place lately, and much is yet to come. Follow along on my Facebook page for events, Instagram for visual delights or subscribe to my new blog. I’m looking forward to writing more.