The Hope Suite
Spotlight on artist Mark L.Smith
Greetings, dear Friends and Family,
It is now four months since I launched The Sunny Optimist, and what a fantastic ride it has been. As always, I am so grateful to you for being on this journey with me.
Recently my buddy FireHawk told me how much he liked the name 'Sunny Optimist.' He said it was not just about the happy energy the Newsletter captures. It was also about how the Sun emanates 'the Light' that sustains life. He spoke about how the Sun is the primordial source of creativity, imagination, poetry, and playfulness. I loved that and how aligned this feels to my dream for this Newsletter.
As I was thinking about where to next for this Newsletter, the word spotlight came to me. From FireHawk words, I saw how The Sunny Optimist could shine the light on people and projects that make a difference in the world. Wowee! that sounded like fun to do. I felt a rise in my optimism. I love hearing about other people's lives. I appreciate how their stories can highlight the goodness, truth, and beauty of our human experience in a way that fuels our hope for the future.
And so….…. This piece today is my very first spotlight. You might need to go and get a cuppa as we may be here a wee while :)
I hope you enjoy it. I would love your feedback, as always.
The Hope Suite
Another of my buddies, Chris Everett, recently sent me a video about ‘The Hope Suite’ by artist Mark L. Smith. I was captivated by Mark and the story behind his series of 44 collages around expressions of the word hope.
You can watch this video by clicking here or on his photo below.
It all began in 2008 with the election of the USA's 44th president Barak Obama. At that time, Mark experienced a rising of hope within himself that he felt had been absent for some time. He felt compelled to embark on a series of 44 works to celebrate this.
Now in 2021, there is another 'rising of hope' across the world as Joe Biden finally took his oath of office. It felt timely and poignant to me to connect these two events. In doing so, I also want to honour the creative drive that led Mark to manifest the beautiful work you can see below.
As The Hope Suite unfolded, Mark realised that this was more than a celebration of a new time for America. It was also about visually building bridges that connect and celebrate the diversity of cultures around the world.
There is an abundance of goodness, truth, and beauty within The Hope Suite that I so wanted to share with you.
The Spirit of Emergence
I reached out to Mark to ask his permission to feature his work on The Sunny Optimist, and we 'met up' a few days ago.
What a delightful man. His description of how The Hope Suite evolved is very present for him, and he is a natural storyteller. I felt I was alongside him in his studio as he shared his experiences. I could also respect his knowing that the works came through him from something bigger than himself, be it Source, the Divine, God, Spirit..... It was a joy to be with the telling of his journey. His innate creativity, combined with the humility to let each piece guide him to completion, was fascinating.
As I have said, each collage is crafted around an expression of the word hope. Most of them are language-based, but Mark was also playful in using other types of expression like morse code for one and binary code for another.
His first college started with the English word.
I invite you to savour it for a moment.
Why the combination of colours?
What do the blue dashes signify?
Is something being hidden? Or is it yet to be revealed?
The Power of Questions
After the first collage was nearing completion, Mark asked the question, 'where next?.'
I appreciate how as an artist, he let the project guide him by being in the question. As you know, I love questions. They open us to move beyond the known, the predictable, or the ordinary. This 'where' question led Mark to see the project as more than a celebration of an election. It is also a planetary inquiry.
The second collage centres on the Arabic word for hope. Mark spoke to the tensions he recognises between the USA and the Arab world. I could feel a sense of questing for connection and understanding as I listened to Mark talk about this. He spoke of his love for the visual beauty of Arabic, which has led to an ongoing fascination with this ancient language.
Again please sit with the image.
What does it open up for you?
What questions arise in this moment?
It took Mark six years to complete the full series of the 44 collages. He had to be patient, he says. He would let them 'seep' for days, weeks, and even months as he listened to each one's creative intention. He said it was like the work had an intelligence all its own. Mark told me there would be a time when the creative interplay was over, and he knew that each one was complete.
I can resonate with this now that I have been writing the Sunny Optimist for a while. There comes the time where it writes me rather than I write it. And then I am done!
The Quilt of 44
Mark's description of the collection as 'the Quilt of 44' was another of the 'aha' moments for me. I enjoy sewing and have always been fascinated by the cultural heritage of quilting. I also appreciate the view that quilts lay down memories for the generations to come.
The word 'quilt' is derived from the Latin word 'culcita,' meaning a bolster or cushion. I love this idea of 'bolstering' or 'cushioning' our creative spirit around hope. Apparently, across the world, quilts have also been viewed as antidotes to upheaval during times of change. This need for an antidote feels very present in these times of profound 'upheaval.'
Mark's beautiful creativity and imagery do the above and so much more.
Inspiration for the question this week
As an artist, Mark says that his lifelong commitment is ‘to stay in the constant state of wonder.’ I found that statement so inspiring. To spend each day looking for things that bring us to an expanded state of appreciation brings us closer to our natural optimism.
And so my question for you today is :
What amazes you about life that keeps you hopeful?
As always, I would love to hear from you.
PS. It has been a joy to spend this time with Mark and his gift of the Hope Suite. I commend this interview video of Mark’s interview to you. To view, Click here or on the image below. Please share with your networks too.
I loved the idea of the creation of a comforting quilt of hopefulness. What keeps me hopeful is that are always inspirational people sharing their work and uplifting ideas to remind me that there is a vast field of new possibilities always emerging out there!
Dear Ann—shining vibrant light, illuminating beauty, and sharing it is such a gift you have. This article is stunning—in your writing you have opened me to choices. You’ve given us an invitation to join you and Mark in the power of hope itself. Thank you for both asking me on this journey, and nourishing in me the deep response to this light itself. It’s so active and joyful. Thank you. I’m so grateful!!