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Art as Soul’s Sanctuary: Between Trauma and Redemption

Dec 19, 2018 - Feb 19, 2019

Works by Jennifer Elam
Tree Rooms Gallery. Free and open to the public!

Featured image: "Arts as Soul's Sanctuary" (paste paint on paper).

Pendle Hill pamphlet #452In August 2018, Pendle Hill published pamphlet #452 by Jennifer Elam, entitled Art as Soul’s Sanctuary: Meditations on Art and Spirituality among Quakers and Beyond. This exhibit will highlight some of the work described in that pamphlet. Parts II and III serve as examples of how art has served as a sanctuary for her soul in recent times.

Artist’s Statement:

Following retirement from working as a psychologist for over 30 years, I heard a deep calling to care for my aging parents. I also heard that it would be a very difficult calling and heard the still small voice ask if I was still willing. I said, “YES,” having no idea what awaited me. I left home at a young age and rejected the violence I had found in my family’s culture. However, I remained quite close with my parents and interacted with them almost daily for my whole life. So, when I heard this call, it felt right. I was traumatized by the violence in my family dynamic. My parents died in January 2018, six days apart, three months before their 70th anniversary.

I now spend my time settling two complicated estates, writing, and dancing. In Art as Soul’s Sanctuary: Meditations on Arts and Spirituality among Quakers and Beyond, I share how dance helped me survive when human support got thin. In a recent meditative dance, I saw the trauma lifting.

I have written extensively on the topic of “Between Trauma and Redemption.” This is a time that is raw, extremely challenging, and a time when relating in the old ways becomes impossible. The rawness is not about comfort; those without the faith and fortitude necessary fall away. Gratitude for it comes slowly but it must come.

Redemption is a word I did not like when I was young but now I find it a foundational part of my faith. I look back at the challenges I faced before in my life and see clearly how they have served to prepare me for what was next. I believe in my core that this trauma and healing from trauma will help me serve others dealing with violence in a way I never could before.

As the paintings in Part III illustrate, new life is being born; this art show is a part of that new life. I am also in the process of completing Soul Returns to Preschool: A Children’s Book for Adults and writing about my Appalachian heritage with a passion that surprises even me. Creativity and connecting with the Creator through the arts in their many forms bring new life; they are life-giving and life-saving. LIFE becomes the creative medium—the dance with God!
Jennifer Elam

Artist’s Bio:

Jennifer ElamJennifer Elam, Ph.D. studied, researched, taught, and practiced psychology from 1969 until 2014; her last 13 years with preschools. She came to Pendle Hill in 1995 and has served in several capacities since including: Staff, Resident Student, Cadbury Scholar, Social Witness Scholar, Pamphlets Committee, and more.

Following retirement, she followed a deep calling to care for her parents who both died in January. Now she is settling estates, dancing, writing, and pursuing health. She is completing Soul Returns to Preschool, that integrates her Psychology work with her research into Children’s Spirituality. She is also passionately writing about her Appalachian heritage,

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