About Cheyenne Chefe'
I spent the first five years of my life on a tiny island in Spain, one of the Boleric islands. 14 miles long and 7 miles wide, Formentera litteraly gave me an earth based foundation that continues to nourish and inspire me today. My first steps were bare footed on the earth. I learned to walk on dirt roads lined with low stone walls hand laid without cement hundreds of years ago and still standing today. With the Spanish dust between my toes, the blue sky above me and the endless ocean all around me, I was rooted in the earth, inhaling the salty air into my growing lungs and soaking up the sun until my hair was as white as the sand. From golden pink sunrises to sparkly lit blackness, her sky taught me wonder and awe with an ever changing canvas. I was a part of that island and She was a part of me; a perfect symbiosis between girl and isle. The Mother Earth image pictured above is the epitome of my experience being raised in Fomentera, truly being one with nature.
I cannot talk about who I am today as an artist without speaking gratefully about my parents.
My love of drawing came through from my father: an artist, a poet, a lyricist, and a man with a mysterious and unhealed past; a past that blessed me and harmed me. I have found that gratitude and anger can dwell in the same space.
My father drew intricately detailed designs with the old fashioned fountain pens that you had to fill with ink, each pen a finer tip than the next, giving him the ability to create elaborate, delicate and complex images that one could gaze into and find something new every time. This was in the 70's and many of his pieces are similar to the mandalas that are so popular today.
I never sat and drew with my father. He never directly taught me about art, style or technique. I learned and was inspired by the albums of his art I acquired after he passed when I was five. Over the years of my childhood, and into adulthood, I would take out the old cardboard box of his albums and flip through the pages. My education, my inspiration, my catalyst, was an accumulation of moments; moments inspecting his pen and ink drawings, his poems, his collages, seeking to learn about him, who he was, what he was feeling, why he was sad, what made him happy, who he loved. I was a detective with a metaphorical magnifying glass on his art, of what was left of the man who could not show up in a healthy way for me, nor even stay to try. Not to mention some strong artistic genes he passed along to me.
I didn't know my grandfather on my father's side. All I know is that he was french. Perhaps he was an artist too, painting with an easel on a hillside covered in lavender, inspired by Monet, Degas and Renoir. Perhaps.
When I was in college taking a European Art History class I wrote my final paper on the correlation between artists and depression. I wondered if it was a stretch, without much actual proof of my theory. But I knew I was on to something, from my experience with my father, the artist who ended his life, and the way drawing seemed intimately connected with the sadness that dwelled in my own psyche. And so I did my research and found remarkable evidence to support my theory. I found that many of the famous artists did indeed suffer from some form of depression and I theorized that it is the bittersweetness of having artistic talent; that it is the ones that feel things deeply, that are labeled "sensitive", that have a certain tenderness in a fairly callused world, that often are the ones who create beauty, expressing profound emotion silently on paper, canvas or ceiling.
When you see art that moves you, that brings you to tears or makes your heart expand, you are privy to something very private in the internal landscape of the artist. And yet... It moves you because you relate, because some part of you identifies with the image, even if you don't fully understand how or why. Because at the end of the day we are all more alike than we are different. At the end of the day we are all one. We are all, in some way, connected through this human experience of emotions.
My father passed down the genes and inspiration and love of drawing but it was my mother who created the space for me to bloom into an artist. She was the one who purchased my art supplies. She was the one who recognized me as an artist. She was the one who cultivated and nourished the artist in me. But most of all, she was the one who showed up, who loved me unconditionally and who stayed. I am eternally grateful and humbled by her grace.
My mother always said she didn't have an artistic bone in her body; that I got that from my dad. One of the many things my mom did for me to nourish my life was recognize me. She made me feel seen. She'd admire the things in me she thought she didn't have in herself. I could hear it in her voice how she was so taken by this being that came out of her that in so many ways was so unlike her.
Of course we all have an artist in us, somewhere, however hidden, waiting to be expressed. I have a very close friend who is about 20 years older than me. She was like my mom, always believing she had no artist in her. Then one day she moved to mexico and took a painting class and discovered that with a little nurturing and guidance from her teacher she indeed is a fabulous painter.
Three years ago my mother, my rock, my closest lifelong confidante, left this realm. It is a deep painful abyss in me that I continue to befriend, continue to keep my heart open to, continue to be brave enough to dive into. My mother is the light of my inspiration today. Why she had to leave so early I will never understand and it would be easy to focus on what feels like an injustice. But deeper than that, beyond the sorrow, beyond the yearning to hear her laugh, beyond the regrets, I believe in a greater truth, a greater plan, a greater mystery, which is communicated through my art. The symbols and images in my art are ones that have helped me heal the wounds and traumas of my childhood and the loss of my mama. Where my father did not get to a time in his life where he could express his healing through art, I shall transform that in my lineage.
From my art to your heart,
About "Ablution", The Golden Grief Goddess
(View image of "Ablution" on the "View Complete Line" page)
At some point in everyones life, sooner or later, we all experience the delicate and powerful emotion of grief.
For me, death first showed up in the womb. My twin sister died in utero. We shared my mothers belly space, her and I this incredible paradox of life and death, swimming in the in-between realm of the womb. Coming into this life side by side with death was the beginning of a profound heart opening that I continue to nurture and cultivate. It was my first experience of grief. But it was not my last.
I am learning to make friends with death. It has taken many years and many deaths but where death used to be my enemy, we now hold hands. Art is a way for me to express this healing.
The word ablution is defined as the ceremonial act of washing parts of the body or washing sacred containers. The original use was a term in chemistry and alchemy meaning purification by using liquids, hence purification of the body by washing. "Ablution", the Golden Grief Goddess, came through me and for you in your time of grief. She reminds us to water and wash and purify the break in your heart with your tears, for your heart has cracked wide open to grow MORE love. More than you can probably imagine in the dark time of grieving. Be diligently gentle with yourself as this heart opening time is very fragile, very raw and very sacred. Painful is an understatement. Grieving is very strong medicine.
My second experience with grief was when I was five and my father killed himself. 39 years later, I still remember the last time I saw him, the awkward goodbye of a very troubled man choosing to leave this realm. My grandfather, the only man I was truly close with, died of cancer when I was 12 and hospital policy didn't allow me to go into his room. I sat in the waiting room and wrote him a letter...a letter I never got to give him... a letter I still have today. My husband (when our daughter was 3 and I was 28) died suddenly of liver failure. In the months that followed I dreamed he was alive and we were together and working out what we were unable to do in this realm. The dreams were so real that I would wake up and for a second I didn't realize it was a dream. I thought he was alive. My waking life was the nightmare. And my mother, the center force in my life and a non-smoker, died of lung cancer when I was 40. I laid in the hospital bed with her as she took her last breath. None of these ones I loved had a beautiful ending. These experiences have marked me.
I understand grief to be one of the holiest emotions. I understand it to be an arduous and rugged initiation. I understand it to be an anointing heart opener.
All the things people will say to you, with good intention to help....Time heals all wounds... Love never dies... these things, while true, may not comfort you & may seem trite in the long stretch of surreal stopped linear time. The only salve for this wound in this moment is to be brave enough to be with it ~ Not that you have much of a choice. Be with the pain, the ferocious depth of its fury and allow yourself to feel it and express it. Even as you think it might snap you in half, even as you think you might never come out the other side, even as a wave of grief feels like drowning, even as you may want to rip this piercing arrow from your chest, even as you can't bear another minute... trust me, trust the spirit of "Ablution", and remember that Creation or God or Divinity, whatever you call It, is cradling you like a mama holds her infant and ALL your Angels and allies are gathered around you in ceremony, holding space and witness to your wail, to your chest-heaving cry, to your shock, to your anger, to your silence, to your regrets, to the sacred, holy, tender space you are going through, for in death there is a birth and you, dear one, are being birthed.
Somehow, some way, some day, this experience will turn into something more beautiful, more precious, more profound, more healing than you could ever imagine. A mystical transformation. It will no longer be bitter, but bittersweet. A sacred duality. A holy union of darkness and light. While now you survive, there will be a day that you thrive.
Death is not something in this culture that we are prepared for. The elders no longer teach the children. Our families no longer live in tribes. Our rights of passage, like loosing a loved one, are not honored but feared. It's a sink or swim culture. A culture that believes in luck before faith. A culture that believes in fairy tales. A culture that is uncomfortable with raw emotions. An avoidance culture. The people that love you may not know what to say, but I'm sure they want to help. Ask for whatever you need! Reach out again and again. Allow yourself to be helped and taken care of. And remember this image of Ablution and the reminder she gives us to freely cry, to purify ourselves with our own tears, to transform our perception of a heart break to a heart opening.
With respect & gratitude,