Found Art

Today I am thrilled to have my good friend, fellow SoCal gal and writer extraordinaire, Leanna Tankersley as my guest on Edgewise. She is a Navy wife, mom to two adorable twins and an artistic thinker. She writes and speaks from a deeper place than the ordinary. . .

EDGE: Your book Found Art is much more than a memoir about life as a newlywed in a foreign country. What do you want people to take away from reading about your out-of-the-ordinary experience?

LEANNA: I want people to reconsider what might emerge out of our seasons of displacement, the beauty that is waiting to be discovered in the foreign places of life. I think we can all relate to feeling far away from home. Perhaps not 10,000 miles away in the Middle East, but walking through unexpected, unfamiliar territories nonetheless.

What happens when we find ourselves uprooted, disoriented, and imbalanced? Shaken up by out-of-the-blue news or tragic loss or just simply change. How do we navigate these seasons of life? Where is God in the midst of our wandering? How might we experience ourselves and him differently because of our journey to the foreign place? I want my reader to know that something beautiful just might be unfolding in their displacement, something they may have never experienced in any other place.

EDGE: How did you decide on this title?

LEANNA: I love salvaged things. Found art is a genre of art that takes scraps and remnants and cast-offs and, in a redemptive act, makes the salvaged items into something new. What a perfect metaphor for God’s work in our lives. Never entirely straightforward. Never perfectly lovely on first glance. But somewhere in the raw tangle of it all the experiences and moments are salvaged and transformed into something of great, enduring beauty. This is how faith makes sense to me. God as the found artist. Life as art-in-the-making. “He is making all things beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

EDGE:Art is a metaphor for something much larger than just accents on the walls of our houses. What is it to you?

What an important question. Art is the expression of the soul. It is what we create from our deepest passions and desires. Art is the beauty that pours out of each of us uniquely and then–magically–flows back into us, healing as it goes. In that way, art is God in and through us.

EDGE: How do you encourage women to get in touch with their creative side? What is the purpose of the tags and clipboards?

LEANNA: When we’re creating with our hands, things come out of us that we would’ve never been connected to otherwise. Our conscious mind almost steps aside, and the creating helps us gain access to a deeper, truer place in us. Sometimes when I feel blocked and stuck and suffocated and anxious, I just sit down and I start cutting things out of magazines and I find a few scraps of paper that I love and I get out the glue and scissors and some manila tags or an old clipboard, and I just start cutting and gluing and collaging until my soul unlocks.

It’s a strange sort of quirky way I do prayer, I guess you could say. When I open my mouth to pray, I can often make things sound a lot better than they really are. But when I make a collage, my soul does the talking, and the truth emerges.

When I facilitate women’s events or retreats, I almost always suggest including an art component for the women to participate in. I have found that more can come out of a 40 minute art exercise than almost any sermon could produce. We all need ways to express what’s going on inside us.

EDGE: You speak about the sacred acts of tearing and mending. In a nutshell, what is this concept and what makes it sacred?

LEANNA: Tearing and mending go back to an ancient Jewish practice around grieving. When you lost someone you loved, you entered into a formal time of grieving that involved the rending, or tearing, of garments. And then there were special guidelines for how the mending was handled. Depending on the loss you sustained, you might be able to permanently repair your clothing. Other losses required that you never fully close the tear.

I’m learning that we can’t really put things back together again until we’ve properly confronted the coming apart. Ecclesiastes 3:7 tell us that seasons of tearing and mending are God-ordained in our lives, so I’ve had to accept the fact that grieving is a holy thing. And, conversely, picking up the needle and thread and going on, is also holy work.

I am a person who resists grieving. I’d rather just skip to the mending part. Most of my life I’ve tried to appear put together and have valued a certain ability to cope. But I’ve learned–as I share in Found Art–that without taking the time to acknowledge our pain and losses, we will get stuck in this plastic performance mode. I’m learning that tearing my garments now and then is a cathartic thing. Only then can the mending really begin.

EDGE: You have said, ““I believe creating is one of the most essentially spiritual things we can do. If we can live inspired to contribute originally to our world, then we’ve really found some magic.” How did you arrive at this conclusion?

I have spent long periods of my life numbed, detached, and looking for ways to escape my present realities. I fight this almost every day as a mother of young children. I want to just check-out in the aisles of Target or in front of The Real Housewives or in my refrigerator. I want to de-possess my life because I feel overwhelmed so much of the time.

The surest antidote to this kind of living is choosing to participate in today. We participate by engaging in our world–even if our world is soggy peanut butter crackers and dozens upon dozens of diapers. If I introvert into my own anxieties and fatigue, I will immediately find myself in this emotional death spiral. But if I can wake up and choose to participate in the reality of my day–accepting my situation, acknowledging my need for God, relinquishing control–then I might just have the resources to bring my true self to the world. This is a day well spent. And, if I can somehow add to the beauty in our world, in small or large ways, then I am truly a magic-maker.

EDGE: I love the title of your blog, Gypsy Ink. Tell me how you chose this title.

LEANNA: I’m strangely obsessed with gypsies. I have a huge connection with the word “freedom,” and gypsies represent a certain kind of freedom to me. I believe God invites each of us into a place of healing in our lives that will ultimately lead to our freedom. The path can look different for each of us, but the manifestation is the same. I chose “Gypsy Ink” as the title of my blog because I wanted to have this invitation to freedom always before me and before my reader.

For many years in my life, and still sometimes now, I am locked up by other people’s perceptions of me, my own issues with wanting to appear perfect and put together. These efforts have certainly left me caged at points in my life, listening to an endless loop of toxic voices. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling like life was just ahead of me.

I’m trying, every day, to take a big deep breath and walk into the freedom God is inviting me toward. Some days are terrible, and I lose my way. Some days, I can breathe just a little deeper than the day before.

EDGE: What’s next on the horizon for you?

LEANNA: I wish I knew. 🙂 I’m working on a proposal for a second book right now. The book is about my emotional journey over the last few years and how I’m seeking out intentional ways to deal with a slew of emotions that have threatened to drown me since becoming a mother. I want women to experience healing in their lives, and I want to talk about some small and big ways that healing is becoming real for me. Stay tuned!

Additionally, we are awaiting orders for my husband’s job. So, truly, a world of possibilities awaits.

EDGE: I am so glad to have chatted with you today, Leanna. You make me want to go scout out a hideaway thrift store for a slice of gorgeous. Come back anytime. Peeps, get her book. Read her blog. She’s a gift to a world in need of an eye for missed beauty! For an additional treat, read her guest post on Throw Mountains. Amazing. . .

Author: Susan

This post has 5 Comments

  1. Wendy Paine Miller on October 22, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    So cool to be introduced to another author. This is my kind of book!

    I find beat up furniture at our local dump (we live in an affluent community, you'd be surprised to see what people toss aside) and I refurbish it. I sand. I paint. I get a taste of what God must feel like with us.

    You also brought me to tears. My father passed away in March. Recently I've found my grief to be stronger than it was the months following his death.

    Powerful post. A book I'm sure to buy!

    Off to check out a new blog!
    ~ Wendy

  2. Susan Meissner on October 22, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    You will love her stuff, Wendy. Sorry for your loss. . . I have heard that grief sometimes finds its way to you after the logistical details of death disappear. Hugs to you. . .

  3. Arlene Pellicane on October 23, 2010 at 3:27 am

    Susan – what a beautiful interview with Leeana. Of course I couldn't agree with you more about Leeana's gift to communicate beauty and truth. I'm so happy to see her on your blog – so great!

  4. Pattie on October 26, 2010 at 2:51 am

    I love how you two know each other!

  5. Leeana Tankersley on October 26, 2010 at 2:54 am

    Susan, thanks again for this interview. I really loved your questions, and I felt so reconnected with my own soul and passions through the dialogue. Thank you for being a fellow gypsy! With love, Leeana

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