June 18, 2023 will mark 40 years since 10 Baha’i women were hanged in Shiraz. Their only ‘crime’ was their refusal to renounce their beliefs in a faith that promotes the principles of gender equality, unity, justice, and truthfulness. This collection highlights Baha’i Blog content relating to the ongoing persecution of Baha’is in Iran.
Lindsey Lugsch-Tehle is a multi-talented artist. She first caught my attention with her photographic skills (we featured some of her photos here on Baha’i Blog). She has an eye for beautiful details and she is also a creator of beautifully detailed works. Most recently, Lindsey completed a set of art inspired by the Baha’i Houses of Worship, or temples, around the world. I love the contrast between the wild, ecstatic richness of her abstract art and the outlines of the iconic structures. Lindsey agreed to tell us a little about this series of artworks. Below you’ll find her paintings — both those of the Houses of Worship and the abstract art they are based on — and our conversation. We hope these splashes of colour brighten your day!
Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to create this series?
In some ways this series has been inspired by my ever-growing and evolving relationship with the Baha’i Faith. I’ve had a deep appreciation for the Institution of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar for many years. I served at the Baha’i House of Worship in North America (2005-2007), where my belief in “the twin directing principles of the worship of God and of service to one’s fellow-men” was solidified and my love for abstract art blossomed. Years later, in April 2017, I started a practice of creating daily paintings; I would spend ten minutes each morning, as a part of my morning prayers, creating. This practice was inspired by the quote attributed to Abdu’l-Baha which states, “when thy fingers grasp the paintbrush, it is as if thou wert at prayer in the Temple.” Around that same time, the Universal House of Justice, in its 2017 Ridvan message, reminded the global Baha’i community of the significance of our actions during the Holy Year: “As a highly auspicious year now commences, might not each one of us contemplate what heavenly deeds His grace may aid us to perform?” Later, in September of 2017, a compilation was released called “The Institution of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar”, and it was announced that each of the Houses of Worship would live stream devotional programs in honor of the Bicentenary.
The Holy Year and approaching Bicentenary, the new compilation highlighting the significance of the Institution of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar, and my new spiritual practice of creating abstract art all contributed to feeling inspired to create a single print to commemorate the Houses of Worship that stood in the world at the time of the Bicentenary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah. From that first print the unique, individual Temple prints emerged, which will continue to be released as each new House of Worship is dedicated.
Baha’i Blog: What is your creative process like?
I’ve been painting for most of my life. Some of my earliest memories are of painting with my grandmother at her kitchen table or in her garden. It wasn’t until 2009 that I became more devoted to the practice of painting. In April 2017 I started a daily practice of painting as a part of my morning prayers. I set aside ten minutes to “free paint”, sort of like a free writing exercise where I would just let the painting happen, no resistance, no judgment. It has become a space where I can try new techniques and play around with color, which ultimately improves my work as an artist.
Typically, when creating commissioned work, I ask the client for their two favorite colors and a quote/mantra/lyric/poem/etc. that I then meditate on before beginning each piece. Creating the Temple series has been somewhat similar; I begin by meditating on the history of the Temple and its location and then begin to paint. Painting always been a free-flowing process, a meditation itself; my mind becomes still and my hands flow, choosing color, texture, and movement without a thought. Then, when the painting is complete I just know; it is almost as if the painting itself lets me know it is complete. The practice of painting has become a practice in tuning into the “promptings of the spirit”.
Baha’i Blog: What is something that you learned in the process of making this series of paintings?
I feel like I’m always learning things! The main thing I’ve learned through this particular series is to trust my inner wisdom in greater degrees. Trusting myself in the process of creation readily translates into trusting myself with regard to various aspects of decision-making—being present, maintaining perspective, and seeing the end in the beginning. This particular series has also helped me practice being detached from the outcome while being involved in the process.
Baha’i Blog: What advice might you have for someone considering picking up a paintbrush?
“Now, the world of existence, indeed every created thing, proclaims but one of the names of God, but the reality of man is an all-encompassing and universal reality which is the seat of the revelation of all the divine perfections. That is, a sign of each one of the names, attributes, and perfections that we ascribe to God exists in man.” – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions
A sign of each of the names of God exists in every human soul. One of God’s names is the Creator; therefore, each one of us has the capacity to create. If you feel called to create through painting, then follow that prompting and allow the JOY of creation to be your guide. There is no one path. There are as many unique paths to creation as there are unique souls. The beautiful thing is that we have the guidance of the Universal House of Justice to draw from in every aspect of our lives. Drawing from the framework for action and concepts such as accompaniment we can begin to see that the guidance regarding community building is also applicable to the process of creation—whether we are talking about designing a House of Worship or painting our first painting. There are two quotes that I continually return to when I am in need of advice. I offer them here in the hope that maybe they will be of support for your own journey as a creator:
“… when thy fingers grasp the paintbrush, it is as if thou wert at prayer in the Temple.” – attributed to Abdu’l-Baha
“In this day, to thank God for His bounties consisteth in possessing a radiant heart, and a soul open to the promptings of the spirit. This is the essence of thanksgiving.” – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha
Baha’i Blog: Thank you so much, Lindsey, for sharing this with us!
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.