Ayyam-i-Ha is a Baha’i festival that is joyously celebrated in countries and territories all over the world. It is a time of hospitality, generosity, and caring for the needy. This year Ayyam-i-Ha runs from February 26-29.
The Baha’i Fast falls during the month of Ala–the last month of the Baha’i calendar. During these 19 days, Baha’is abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset. While this abstention from food and drink is a test of one’s will and discipline, the Fast is not just about abstaining from food. The Fast is, primarily, a spiritual practice.
I have yet to meet Jacqueline personally, but her sense of creativity and joyfulness is contagious! Here we share a few of her works, and a few of her words about them. It may no longer be the Fast, but I hope you find them soul-nourishing nevertheless!
Baha’i Blog: Hi Jacqueline! To get started, could you please tell us a little about yourself?
Sure thing. I was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. My father is Hispanic (Mexican, by way of Cherokee and Spaniard) and my mother is of Celtic origin. I’m also third generation American Baha’i, thanks to my southern belle, Methodist grandmother who declared in San Antonio in 1963. I come from an exceptionally creative and diverse family (ranging from atheist sci-if writing, to historic rock in roll debauchery to striving to live a Baha’i life) and have a life-long background in acting. I’ve lived in many inspiring places (Austin, New Orleans, the Appalachian and L.A. areas to name a few) and travel regularly. I’m grateful for these experiences and the texture they’ve brought to my work. Through it all, I identify most strongly as a Baha’i and an artist.
Baha’i Blog: Could you tell us a little about “19 Days of Inspiration”?
19 Days of Inspiration was a simple personal initiative, the tag line was “daily art emails to feed our spirits during the Baha’i Fast.” And it was just that: morning emails each day of the Fast with a passage from the Writings (or otherwise spiritually empowering quotation) along with an original art image of mine (from “the darling to the celestial”) and the story behind the piece, often correlated with the opening quotation. My hope was to contribute to a sense of community during that special time of year, using art to sensitize our minds and hearts even more deeply to the power of the Writings — as Shoghi Effendi says, “art can better awaken such noble sentiments” — and of course to inspire and galvanize our Fast. I had pictured the emails being most helpful during the long mid-work hours (to “nourish” our spirits around lunch time) but most of the feedback I received was that people began to look forward to starting their Fast day with the emails.
Baha’i Blog: What is your creative process like?
The creative process is one of the best spiritual teachers! For me there is a restful balance of focus similar to meditation: minimizing outside distractions while giving a gentle attention to the work. In other words, I strive to be an open channel and get out of my own way by not over-thinking the steps. Often I’ll begin with impressionist or abstract expressionist techniques just to get going and then I let the process, or individual piece guide me from there. It is always a training in receptivity; learning detachment as I discern what the piece is telling me it wants to be. Some of my favorite artworks I had to entirely let go of any preconceived plan and let it develop in its own way.
Baha’i Blog: What is one thing you learned during this project?
I learned so much during 19 Days of Inspiration! The most unexpected and beautiful thing that comes to mind was pointed out by a number of participants in the emails — that it was an exercise in and demonstration of living a cohesive life. Without realizing the impact it would have, bringing together different threads of my personal experiences and sharing them in a spirit of deepening seemed to inspire people — and then they took it further by using the emails during their own devotionals, passing them along to friends, relatives and spiritual seekers. (Art has a unique way of sparking enthusiasm and stimulating conversation!) I believe everything Baha’u’llah has given us, from our gifts to tools like digital connection and social media can be used to serve others. It’s simply an ongoing exploration of how.
Baha’i Blog: What are you working on now?
Several projects I’m very excited about! I am currently working on a new series of paintings and commissions, as well as a Baha’i-inspired illustrated children’s book, and planning an art show and talk (on my Seven Valleys of Summer painting series) that will serve as a kick-off for community outreach in a neighboring city that has shown readiness and receptivity. To quote Shoghi Effendi again:
“That day will the Cause spread like wild fire when its spirit and teachings will be presented on the stage or in art and literature as a whole.” 1
Baha’i Blog: Thank you so much, Jacqueline, for sharing this with us! I wish you a lot of success with your upcoming work!
In her innermost heart, Sonjel is a stay-at-home parent and a bookworm with a maxed out library card but professionally she is a museologist with a background in English Literature. She currently lives on Prince Edward Island, an isle in the shape of a smile on the eastern Canadian coast. Sonjel is a writer who loves to listen to jazz when she's driving at night.