"Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. 
In effect, the people who change our lives the most begin to 
sing to us while we are still in darkness. If we listen to 
their song, we will see the dawning of a new part of ourselves."

Rabindranth Tagore

Existential Intelligence is the sensitivity and capacity to engage questions about human existence – how we got here, whether we have a purpose, and whether there is meaning in Life. Existential intelligence embraces the exploration of aesthetics, philosophy, religion and values like beauty, truth, and goodness. A strong existential intelligence allows human beings to see their place in the big picture, be it in the classroom, community, world, or universe.

First proposed by Howard Gardner, existential intelligence is one of nine theorized intelligences and is considered to be amoral – that is, it and the other eight categories of human intelligence can be used either constructively or destructively.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Full Circle

It’s funny how long an idea can take to bear fruit. We aren’t accustomed to waiting for things in this culture. We want to be entertained; we turn on the TV or run to the video store. We need information and right there it is – in front of our eyes on the computer screen.

In 2008 I got interested in sending designs to spoonflower.com because I could preview them instantly as lengths of cloth. That was pretty darn spiffy. Ordering the fabric was even spiffier. My daily delight became checking the mailbox, where fabric started to arrive with satisfying regularity. Bank account be damned! There was Paypal. It felt like getting fabric for free. But that’s a disconnect and not this story.

As the fabric stacked up in the studio, my delight shifted to auditioning. Length after length resided on the magnetic wall, where I shuffled patterns and prints for hours and never tired of the combinations. It took that long to get to know the pieces. There were so many intricacies. Such varieties of surprising patterns and colors. So many unexpected design similarities within the assortment. I loved the fact that the animals and plants disappeared into the complex patterns, which to me was symbolic of how each is literally disappearing from the earth. My Sacred Planet series was birthing in my head.

But it never actually birthed into reality then, which is now almost a year ago. Cutting up the fabric was waaay too intimidating, and the idea of printing or dyeing over the digital prints? At that point it felt sacrilegious.

Fast forward through summer and also through fall. A busy teaching schedule kept me moving and when I am moving that’s where my creativity goes. I’ve given up moaning about not having time to make art. This is reality and pays the bills, but it’s also just another version of being a creative self. So when I am moving, I dream about art making in my mind, and channel creativity into my teaching.

November passed; with December close on its heels. My studio time. Hurray! I went there. I got ready to make art. I looked at my fabrics. My gorgeous, precious fabrics.

They weren’t so precious anymore! Time had passed, and with it my enthrallment. I still loved my fabrics but the New Boyfriend stage was over. I began cutting and then dyeing. I ordered six large map silk-screens. Being in the studio was still intimidating, but now it wasn’t about the fabrics. It was about the meaning.

On January 14, I shipped eighteen completed pieces to the Boger Gallery at the College of the Ozarks. Three weeks later I went there to teach a workshop. I walked into the gallery. It was good. The pieces were singing to me. I was pleased.

The exhibition closed and the work came back. I unpacked it and stored it away, eager to show it later in the year.

But last week something unexpected happened!

In the middle of a workshop week, after speaking passionately about meaning with my class, I counseled a beloved student to consider the positive qualities of defiance. There are hard issues artists want to address. Difficult, unpopular, ugly, hateful and absurd issues. Violence and war and the degradation of the planet, for starters.

At home that evening it struck me like a lightning bolt. My own work wasn’t defiant enough. I’d carefully crafted art in which endangered animals and plants gradually disintegrated and seemed to be disappearing before the viewers’ eyes.
But I’d had a chance to be defiant, and I'd missed the boat.

So last night I went to the studio. My class ended on Friday. Students were returning home, with visions of their own work vibrating in their heads. It was time to practice defiance. To see if I could get it right.

I chose my least favorite piece. I analyzed the colors. I mixed a blood red paint. I stood over the piece, which was positioned on the floor. I held my breath. My heart pounded. I spewed the paint across the piece.

My sacred planet was defiled. The act was required to complete the meaning I’d so carefully refined.

It took almost a year - to the date of receiving that fabric in the mail - to get the final step figured out.

Lesson learned. Again. Don’t hurry. Don’t settle. Trust the process. Keep asking questions.

It’s worth it.

The beginning.
The end.


  1. You are such a brave artist. Wow! You never cease to amaze me and I am in awe at the thought of you standing over the piece with red paint and just doing it. Precious fabric - precious earth, both defiled, now.

  2. I, too, can picture you slinging the paint. I salute your courage. And I thank you. I am struggling to find my own courage, to move from my comfort zone. It helps to know there is company along the road.

  3. How apppropriate for me. I am ready, but not yet willing, to slash gashes in my current piece where the words of hate speech, which is killing us, will spew out. Your throwing paint gives me permission to slash the cloth. If not, those hurtful, hateful words will remain contained and will eventually kill us.

    Linda in St Pete

  4. The Process. It doesn't end, does it? There's always more to understand, to learn, to incorporate into what we create. What a powerful realization you had! The tune they were singing was out of sync with your bold idea, cleverly represented. Thank you for sharing it, I'll try to be alert. Always more, always more...

  5. I am graced and emboldened by your generous comments all. Thank you and may we share courage. XX

  6. well, I needed to read your post, as I am very much struggling with a piece right now....boy do I struggle!
    thanks for giving me some courage to hopefully get back to it!


  7. I stood, during a workshop break, and gazed in wonder at the beautiful fiber art exhibited in the Boger Gallery. Can this be Jane Dunnewold's work? It's beautiful but so.....organized. Hurray, Jane, you're back bringing all the bravery we came to rely on in your older work. Thank you, thank you, thank you, and keep on flinging that paint!

  8. This is just what I needed to hear -- thank you, Jane. I sometimes think that I'm the only one who obsesses and over-thinks and still the message is lost. So good to hear that there's company out there and that we can support one another's boldness/defiance.


  9. Jane, I love the fact that despite the fear you slashed that red paint anyway across your fabric. Would that we all be that fearless and daring with our own work. For me, it trickles in from time to time.