Wisdom through stillness: Carla Woody integrates indigenous ideas in art, life

Aug 7, 15 • 5enses, Feature6,226 Comments

Carla-portraitBy Jacques Laliberté

Set your intent and let it go. Your intent is your beginning. Worrying about the details detracts from the intent . . . the attraction will take care of the details.”

Thus — in her “The Lifepath Dialogues” blog — Prescott artist Carla Woody imparts the first of many lessons in a way of living. Artwork and writing are two of the primary ways she’s integrated her far flung experiences circumscribing a circuitous path around the globe.

I was fortunate to spend a significant portion of my 1960s childhood living in a suburb of Paris influenced by French culture where the arts are valued,” Woody writes on her website. “We traveled all over Europe. I remember spending a lot of time in art museums and exploring narrow cobblestone streets with my parents.”

With her childhood mercifully free of the influence of organized religion, Woody was primed to encounter mystic traditions whenever they showed themselves. First, though, came a potential — perhaps vital — obstacle: her service in the military as a consultant in leadership development. Perhaps full immersion in her culture created the momentum to fling her so energetically toward subsequent events.

Over the last 20-plus years, I’ve been privileged to have ongoing experiences with traditional indigenous spiritual leaders and healers who serve their communities,” Woody writes on her website. “My main involvement has been with Quechua and Q’ero of Peru, Maya of Mexico and Guatemala, and Hopi. Even from the beginning, these influences led me to change my own life dramatically.”

The threads that run through the native traditions she encountered are seemingly universal truths often displaced in contemporary society: a reverence for the planet and its living things, as well as gratitude for Earth’s bounty shown with acts of reciprocity and understanding they will one day be returned. Most telling is the way traditional peoples integrate their beliefs into everyday life. It’s an approach uncommon in Western culture, where compartmentalization is rampant — like the way some people attend church on Sunday as a singular, weekly focus of attention otherwise absent from their lives.

In Woody’s art and writing, she attempts to manifest an informed wholeness.

Exposure to these Indigenous lifeways continues to remind me what truly matters,” she said. “These are the elements I seek to express through my art.”

Developed through a lifetime of experiences cultivating stillness, her art offers a refuge. She often finds refuge in its creation, as well.

When I was much younger, I painted fast and furiously, always with a goal in mind, generally turning out a completed work in four to eight hours,” Woody writes on “The Lifepath Dialogues.” “Now I paint on the same canvas for weeks, sometimes longer.”

Woody often starts with a silver or gold leaf base that imparts an elegant depth as she’s “seeking something hidden, there, vibrating in the ether.”

Her intention is to share her experiences.

My work today seeks to translate the essence of what I’ve experienced in a way that honors — with intent to invoke the sense of wonder and inner peace I’ve gained,” she writes on her website.

Beyond her artwork, Woody’s attempts to live her learning led her to found the nonprofit Kenosis in 1999 to, according to its mission statement, “ honor and preserve the integrity of indigenous wisdom and sacred cultural practices by providing cross-cultural exchanges, education, and community-building opportunities.”

She hopes that by immersing others in the wisdom of native traditions, it may endure. Furthermore, she leads literal journeys with other “spiritual travelers” with hopes to open portals to collective experiences of life-altering self-knowing. En route, people are often exposed to ingenious art and modes of expression.

Coming full circle, Woody’s recently created an arts initiative via Kenosis.

[It’s] a program through my nonprofit for supporting indigenous artists who have limited access to the wider world to offer their artwork.,” she said. “Our first artist is Kayum Ma’ax Garcia, who is Lacandon Maya and lives deep in the rainforest.”

Indeed her art, beliefs, and journeys have all come full circle.


Find out more about Carla Woody at Carla-Woody.ArtistWebsites.Com and TheLifePathDialogues.Com.

Find out more about Kenosis at Kenosis.Net.

Author and artist Jacques Laliberté was a 20-plus-year resident of Prescott, has written for and designed several publications and just published his first novella. He often forgets the names of people he knows well. He willingly moved to Paulden last year.

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