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Wednesday’s Wise Women and Meinrad Craighead

January 16, 2013

the sign of the tree 1

On Saturday afternoon I attended an art class at a local school.  Once a month a group of printmakers take over the art department with an experienced facilitator.  Each person brings a work in progress or a plan to start something new and makes use of the teacher and equipment for a small charge.

I took along my little collection of tools and a stash of inspiring pictures; thinking I would select one to replicate.

I wandered among the other ‘pupils’ and was suitably impressed by the works of art that were unfolding.  I was also interested in their motivating images.  One lady had a meaty tome by Meinrad Craighead called the Sign of the tree.  The book, I am advised came out of meditation and in turn a focus on which to meditate.  For Meinrad, the tree is an ‘archetypal symbol, which she uses to to express the intensity and the wonder of the contemplative experience.
Meinrad Craighead was born 1936 in Arkansas. She studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna and the Universities of Iowa and Wisconsin, then lectured in art at the University of Albuquerque in New Mexico; where she fell in love with the sparse landscape and the ancient Native American culture.  In 1962, she went Florence where she taught art and art history.  Since 1960 her graphic work has been exhibited and many of her woodcuts are part of permanent collections in the United States and Europe.  She received major awards in graphic arts including in 1965, a Fulbright Award in printmaking which took her to Barcelona for a year.

In 1966, she entered Stanbrook Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in Worcester, England, where nuns lead a life of contemplation, celebrate the liturgy, farm their land, tend the orchards and work in a variety of ways to make the community of sixty women as self-supporting as possible.The Rule of St Benedict welcomed and encouraged monastic craftsmanship. Stanbrook Abbey was renown for its fine printing business for many years Meinrad’s art illustrated their publications.

the sign of the tree

She was particularly interested in images of the feminine divine.

the sign of the tree 2

Leaving the monastery after 14 years Meinrad returned to Mexico where she still lives with her beloved dogs. By the Rio Grande she paints her dreams and beliefs in a blend feminist, Native American and the archetypes of the Great Mother into images that have clearly gone on to inspire other women print-makers. 

the sign of the tree 3

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