Artist Alice Williams recently published Where the Light Comes In, the third instalment in a trilogy of illustrated books filled with her artwork as well as divinely-inspired quotes and meditations from Abdu’l-Baha and others.
Alice graciously agreed to tell us about Where the Light Comes In, as well as about the whole trilogy and the artwork featured — some of which is included below. We hope you enjoy!
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’ve been a Baha’i since 1978. My daughters, Aimee and Jenny, were young children then and I was happy to discover the Faith in time to raise them in it. I’ve held a number of non-art related jobs, but I’ve been a painter and photographic artist since I served in the art department at Maxwell Baha’i School in Canada in the mid ’90s. I try to use my art for service any way I can. I illustrate, edit and sometimes write for a Baha’i-inspired nonprofit, Oceti Wakan, with Cindy Catches, a long-time pioneer on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, and a dear friend who taught me the Faith. I assist her in creating curriculum for children and youth for the prevention of addiction and suicide, and to preserve Lakota culture. Along with my family, I also do art projects with Central American refugee children and create art from them for fundraising and awareness. One project is currently on display at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. I’m active in my Baha’i community in Camarillo, California. I’m blessed to be a mother and grandmother as well.
Baha’i Blog: Could you please tell us a little about ‘Where the Light Comes In’ and what inspired you to create it? I understand it is part of a series.
The three little books I recently created were pandemic endeavors. I was inspired by the words of Abdu’l-Baha, “I rejoice to hear that thou takest pains with thine art, for in this wonderful new age, art is worship. The more thou strivest to perfect it, the closer wilt thou come to God… That is to say, when thy fingers grasp the paintbrush, it is as if thou wert at prayer in the Temple.”
Where the Light Comes In is the last book in the series and was published just a few months ago. It deals with healing – healing from our own illnesses and wounds, as well as society’s, like racism and social injustice. The title comes from Rumi’s quote about how the wound is where the light enters. Along with the pain, challenges and difficulties can be opportunities for us to heal, grow, strengthen, develop resilience, compassion and so many other qualities. In this book I also included quotes from Martin Luther King Jr, Hafez, Maya Angelou, Chief Crazy Horse and others.
The first book in the series is Gather All People. I created this one around the intense race situation in our world over the last year or so. Its subtitle is Illustrated words of wisdom of Abdu’l-Baha celebrating the beauty in humanity’s diversity, unity, love and justice. With the theme chosen, I faced the dilemma of portraying diversity in humanity when I don’t normally paint people! I was then inspired to paint a series of dancing tree paintings where a grove of trees, taking on somewhat the shapes and colors of people, celebrate each other in nature.
The second book in the series is Joy Gives Us Wings, Illustrated quotes from Abdu’l-Baha on finding joy in serving humanity, the earth and its creatures, and within ourselves. I hope the beautiful quotes by the Master inspire readers to do more service – doing for others is a win/win for everyone. I love the Master’s quote, “In times of joy our strength is more vital, our intellect keener, and our understanding less clouded. We seem better able to cope with the world and to find our sphere of usefulness.”
The other part of the theme is that we can choose joy in spite of life’s inevitable challenging circumstances. This is sometimes easier to achieve when we take a few minutes to think about what we are grateful for. A depressing mood can disappear on the spot when our brain switches gears and calls up what we are grateful for – try it!
Baha’i Blog: Could you share with us a little about the illustrations and art included in the book?
Each book has about 60 illustrated pages. Although I’m pretty prolific in the painting department, by the third book I was photographing stained glass pieces, sketches, fabric art and more – trying to find yet another artwork I hadn’t used before! But thankfully, Photoshop came to the rescue and I created new pieces out of bits and pieces of old ones including photos. Believe it or not, I often get art ideas while swimming under the stars where I live. I also got help from above I’m pretty sure – I’d often decide on a quote and the image would just come to me.
Baha’i Blog: Who is the intended audience of this book and the whole series?
I’d say people seeking spiritual solace and a path built on peace, love and unity. Abdu’l-Baha greatly influenced my life from the beginning. It became so apparent during the last couple of years that we so need the teachings of the Faith and its spiritual solutions in our world. But I was also aware of how put off people were by religion. I decided to create a series of books that felt more “spiritual” than “religious” in the hope of the teachings reaching and affecting more people. The feedback I’ve gotten has been overwhelmingly positive.
Baha’i Blog: What do you hope people will take away long after they’ve finished reading?
I hope they contribute to the awareness that there is a group of people in this world with a Divinely guided plan of action to steer our thoughts and actions away from hate and in the direction of the unity of humankind, equality of women and men, unity in diversity, progressive revelation, individual investigation of truth so no need for clergy, and that there is a new religion based on the oneness of God, humankind and religion. I had been raised Catholic but as a parent of young children I was searching for a spiritual path that recognized the truth and beauty in all religions and all people, and that was based on peace and love and not fear. With the Faith, I didn’t have to abandon my love for Christ, I was invited to open my arms wider to embrace all of the Messengers of God. I want others to have the same “aha” moments I had way back.
Baha’i Blog: Thank you, Alice, for sharing with us about your books.
You can purchase Alice’s trilogy from book retailers such as the US Baha’i book distribution service.