It was as if it had been scripted. I walked into a local women’s clothing store and there, displayed on a table, were Marylou Falstreau’s Women and the Hourglass® cards. They were amazing! Colorful and beautiful, they were exactly what I had been looking for. I wrote to her and immediately, as if the Universe had planned this all along, she agreed to work with me. Our relationship was fledged.
Marylou Falstreau is one of the women who created artwork for the book, “26 Love Letters for Mama”. She generously agreed to provide artwork for two letters- the “a” and the “N”. She is an intuitive artist, spiritualist and businesswoman whose mindfulness, honesty and spiritual practice inform the creation of her unique designs. Thousands of women have been touched by the truth they find in her books, prints, greeting cards and original paintings. It has been my good fortune to work with her on this project and I’m excited to share some of her insights in this first in a series of artist interviews.
Susan: Tell me about your Women and the Hourglass® Series… Since I’ve gotten to know you I see how revealing they are of who YOU are and that makes each piece that much more wonderful to me. Tell me how they evolved and where they came from?
Marylou: Well they were magic! And I take a little bit of credit for them but mostly it was a process where I began to paint and show my work and then eventually my work evolved toward images of women. Eventually personal stories of my own began to integrate into the paintings and a waking up idea of spirituality emerging and shifting. But I had no plan to create a series of prints and cards that I would wholesale.
It all began with a dream. I actually woke up from a dream where I had been in conversation with maybe three or four other women and we were close together at a table talking quietly and I remember when I woke up I just had the feeling of the dream and the two words “women” and “hourglass” but I had no idea what that meant. I just began working obsessively without knowing what I was doing, and I created three images within that week. The first was, “One day she woke up and discovered she’d grown wings”. The second one was “One day she woke up and decided to love herself more than she ever thought possible” and the third one was “One day she decided to open her hands and receive”.
These were all messages I needed to say to myself. I was at a place in my life of transition where I understood that what I had been doing all along hadn’t been working and hadn’t been serving anybody and most certainly hadn’t been serving me, and so I started with the three images. Now I think I have 37 and three poems so that’s now 40. Each one of them has to do with me so you can tell what’s been going on with me and what I’ve been learning and what’s fascinating to me is that we’re all the same- and other women resonate with what I’m doing too.
The idea of the “hourglass” was there from the beginning but I have been exploring the hourglass idea by talking with other people, by sitting with it myself in meditation and really it means that now is the time. Now is the time. Time is passing. Now is the time to wake up. Now is the time to love yourself, forgive yourself, celebrate yourself. So that’s where they came from… Not all of them start with “One day she woke up”. Some are “One day she decided” or “One day she knew”….I wanted the words to flow and I didn’t want to be restricted in that way…
Susan: I am sensing a theme of non-restrictiveness in you anyway. My sense is that when you are inspired by the universe you are just ready to go with it!
Marylou: That’s interesting that you should mention that because I have felt very restricted and limited as far as needing to paint a certain number of paintings, to create work for shows because once you sell paintings those painting need to be replaced and of course there is that expectation of what those new paintings are going to be like- the themes and colors. There can be a lot of restriction if you let there be, about what is expected of you. But recently we MOVED to the desert where nobody knows me and I love it! I have been buying these canvasses and colors and I have been pouring and splattering and there are no images yet. Just spirit.
The desert and the mountains are so big and beautiful and you can see them in ways that we don’t see mountains when they are covered with trees. The colors are amazing- the purples and the pinks- whereas at the ocean,where we lived for years, it could be very much one note because there is always the greyness with the water and sky and the evergreen foliage is always greenish grey, damp, cool and foggy… It’s challenging to keep your energy high there if you are not fed by the ocean but in the desert, when I first put my feet down, I felt at once that I was really here in a way that I never felt at the ocean!
Susan: You have had so many positive responses to your work and I can see a trend where
you are giving back. Tell me about the Trilogy Poem Paintings and about your donation to
the Betty Ford Center .
Marylou: I had been meeting women at art shows for years that were part of 12-step programs and you could tell that they were really moved. They would stand in the corner of the booth where the paintings were and talk and cry. For myself- having a vast experience with alcoholism in my family for generations and also having been beautifully codependent in the dance, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to donate these paintings.
Each painting in the Trilogy is about 30 x 40 inches and I did them really quickly. I wanted a narrative to go along with the Women and the Hourglass® pieces so I very quickly took some color and blocked in some shapes of women and then went back into my room, sat on my bed and said- “OK, I need a poem” and literally within 20 minutes, I wrote that whole poem and- I don’t feel that I wrote it at all. I feel that it was given to me to share. But what’s fascinating was that I had no idea that they were a trilogy until long after when I was putting the words on paper to make cards and my husband noticed that I’d created a trilogy- the three steps to an awakening heart:
She understood her heart, She opened her arms and
Her heart began to sing.
They are now hanging on the wall in the Spiritual Counseling Center there (at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California) and I got to deliver them and help hang them. I learned later that it can be really difficult to have your work accepted there and it can take a lot of effort and this just happened so freely- it felt just right- especially to donate them and not to sell them.
The cards and books have been for sale in the gift shop there for a year and a half or so, and I sometimes hear from women who have gone through the program telling me how they have purchased the cards and that they keep them on their notebooks and how helpful they were to them. It feels- really good. It’s one of those things that I could never have made happen on my own but those little series of events that lead to it made it happen perfectly and easily without too much effort on my part.
Susan: I know we talked before about the responsibility of the artist. My sense is that what we say, do and put into the world matters and that we have a responsibility about what we create and, at the same time, a responsibility to tell the truth even if sometimes the truth is ugly.
Marylou: I think we as spiritual beings sometimes get lost in the notion that everything needs to be one note and life is about contrast- just look at the seasons. In the winter, things die and look, frankly, ugly and dark. Think of what happens in the wild when animals have to kill to live. I think it’s OK to get those images out because they may spark a conversation that may need to happen. I think it’s OK to express it and I think it’s OK if you want to burn them, too. I personally have ripped up and burned many paintings- had rituals- but I can look back at them and see where I was at that moment and why I was there.
We had been talking about Quentin Tarentino and his new movie and I happened to talk with my son about that today. One of the things that I find true when I am in my most authentic space and I am creating- is that in that moment, I am expressing spirit within me. Very clearly, Quentin Tarentino is filled with spirit and is in this creative vortex, not unlike J.K. Rowling. And some people think her stuff is satanic because of the witchcraft aspect and Quentin Tatentino’s work is being criticized for being violent. But who knows where these images come from? Is it cellular memory from previous lives? Is it OK to resist or edit those away?
That said- I do think that we have to edit if, and when, we see that our work is causing harm or if the right kind of discussion is not taking place. We have to be continuously aware of what we are doing. Creation is creation and as long as you are completely in a heart space when creating….I think it’s OK. It’s about your intention. If you are creating artwork that is going to cause debate- it’s OK. If you are creating a painting to go above a couch- it’s OK. It’s just a story of judgment. And art is so subjective.
Susan: I know that you have a special heart for women and that you have recently made a donation of cards and prints to Sister Somalia. Tell me about that.
Marylou: Sister Somalia is a rape crisis center in Mogadishu where they provide many services to women. Among them there are a team of people who write cards to empower and support these women who have been victims of sexual assault. These women have so little beauty in their lives that they actually pin the card to the inside of their blouses or their skirts so that they are up against their skin- so they can be reminded of hope. I love to think of the cards being used in this way and I hope that the possibilities for support will expand. There’s lot’s to be done. There always will be.
Marylou Falstreau continues to create beauty and inspiration along with her partner and husband, Alan. They live in a sunny desert in southern California but her work can be found in stores from Alaska to Florida, from California to Vermont. Visit her website for more information: http://www.mfalstreau.com