The Living Circle - Anne's Story

By Mercedes Grandin


"Native peoples used circles, spirals and labyrinths as means of coming to an understanding of the Universe and themselves, because Nature itself was perceived as working in circles, cycles and spirals, and the Life Force itself moved in a similar way. When humans come into balance with Nature we come into harmony and rhythm, vibration and pulsation of Life itself with the result that we become, joyful and harmonious beings." Shamanic Spirit by Kenneth Meadows

Preface from Mercedes Grandin

The purpose of this interview is to shed light on artist Anne Grandin's story and to reveal the inspiration and evolution of her path, from her early work to the conceptualization and vision behind her latest project, The Living Circle. Several years ago, when Anne was suffering from a shoulder injury and coping with a series of painful and debilitating surgeries, she had a dream that she would travel around the world with her art, in hopes of sharing a message about the urgency of creating and living in a world unified by peace, compassion and respect for all living beings. Struggling against the obstacles of physical pain and injury and breaking from artistic convention to take risks with her work, Anne has brought forth her vision and shared her dream and spiritual quest for all beings to respect and live in harmony in the circle of life that exists on Earth. From Italy to Africa, from Boston to the Grand Canyon, Anne has worked to bring her realized dreams of peaceful coexistence in our complex globe to fruition, in an effort to unify to what she terms, "worlds emerging and worlds apart". Throughout her career and trajectory of work and now present as the unifying theme behind her latest exhibition, The Living Circle, Anne's concept of unity and the circle of life have stood firm, grounded in her dream of spreading a message of hope, compassion, love and harmony among all living beings. Through Anne's story emerges a clear vision, strong sense of purpose, and vigilant hope for the future.

Preface from Anne

Often I wonder why I am writing my story. It is about a calling and a message that I have been asked to spread to the world that all people must respect one another and exist peacefully in the living circle that contains all life. What I went through with my injury and surgeries was a humbling experience; it brought me to a low point where I evaluated my life and the meaning of my work. I realized that I was only one being and others like me existed out there. During the years of the surgeries and pain, I asked God for help and bit by bit I gained strength and painted with a passion. That drive helped me understand how lucky and blessed I am. I needed to help others who were not so fortunate. I was painting circles and didn’t even realize what I was doing and then, like in a dream, all of it came to me. The circle was the Native American faith circle, or living circle, and within it everything existed in harmony, people respected one another and nations learned to live together. Human beings protected the land and preserved it for future generations. All of a sudden, that tap on the shoulder became a bolt of lightning and I knew I had to share my story. My mission is to spread the concept of The Living Circle to all corners of this Earth and pray all humans will learn to exist in the circle, love one another and preserve our beautiful lands.

 The Beginning / The Path

Can you talk about your journey and path as an artist?

Because it has taken me so long to get where I am, I have learned what it means to be an artist. It is not the piece, but the emotion, the soul, the heart, the message the artist puts into a painting. The artist must give of himself or herself totally if they are to succeed. The artist has to enter into a private world to create. Few people realize what it takes for an artist to produce a painting. We live in a very isolated world. This world is lonely, as we must focus on our work. The images that occupy the mind and heart swirl around in the head and it takes great energy to process it all. Even though I can stop painting and enter into the world of every day life, the images remain in the head and heart. I can go to sleep and they are still there. Often I can create entire paintings in my sleep. In the morning, I know just what to do with the piece I am working on. Sometimes people think I am "aloof” or "out there” or just in a different world. The artist goes in and out of both worlds at the same time. Sometimes there is a period of transitioning from one world to another and that is difficult for friends to understand what is happening.

Can you talk about the evolution of your work and how you've incorporated the mediums of sculpture and painting?

Now my work is sometimes 3 dimensional and sometimes flat. One shape leads into another shape. The land moves into the sky and everything becomes connected as all elements of life move and flow together. I try to make my colors exciting and rich like the earth or the deep blue of the sky. I use glazes and layers of paint to get depth. It takes time for all the experiences and visions to take form. Part of art is being stimulated, being able to use all the senses. It's learning about color, the lines, the shapes, edges and composition. For example, my color has gone from very bland to very strong. People look at my work and my use of color excites them. My work keeps evolving, changing as my life and experiences change. This is what an artist must do to grow and develop. It is important for an artist to keep stimulating the senses, to keep searching, feeling and always looking for the unknown.

Is there anything that holds you back at this point?

Physical pain, time and trying to balance life and family sometimes holds me back. It is difficult to be totally involved in one's work and then change focus and cook dinner. It is similar to when you are working out and are in a "zone”, a place where the body is moving and you could keep going for a long time but all of a sudden you are jerked from that state into reality. It takes a second or so to adjust. I used to paint all day and then break for dinner only to go back and work for several more hours. I realized I was not able to focus on my family and I had to change my schedule so I could be a better mother and wife. This has been a challenge but all of us have a hard time balancing life! I also deal with the shoulder pain and I try to think I am not held back, but the reality is I am. Sometimes after working for a long period of time, I cannot lift a coffee cup, other times it is hard for me to cook so I mentally deal with it. If someone asks me "how much pain do I have” I do not know as I have learned not to think about it and just cope.

The Calling

"The Sacred Hoop is the circle of all life- the Four Directions, the Earth, and everything that lives on the Earth. It includes not only the two-leggeds, but also the four-leggeds, the wingeds, those who live in the waters, those who crawl on the earth, even the plant life. Everything is part of the Sacred Hoop and everything is related. Our existence is so intertwined that our survival depends upon maintaining a balanced relationship with everything in the Sacred Hoop.”
The Wind Is My Mother.
The Life and Teachings of a Native American Shaman.
Bear Heart

How has Native American spirituality and the concept of the circle influenced you and your work?

I have a spiritual mentor who saw my work during the time I was discovering my vision and he said "Anne do you know what you're doing? You are making circles because circles have no beginning and no end.” He said that Native Americans believe in the faith circle or living circle, and that all life exists within the circle in harmony and balance. Within the circle, all people respect one another. I began to do more reading and realized that I was encompassing the spirituality and philosophy of Native Americans in my work without really knowing about it.

How has your shoulder injury affected your work and your mission as an artist?

It was really when my injury and the 6 surgeries that followed occurred that I knew I was being called and it all came together. For four years, I had one surgery after another and each time my range of motion got worse. I was in unbearable pain, but I never gave up. I started to paint with my left hand. I remember two weeks after surgery painting a huge picture of sailboats on paper, I sat on the floor with my shoulder strapped and worked. I learned to pray. Often I would be in tears working. I never told anyone. I wanted to know the answer why I wasn't getting better, but no one told me. Years later, I learned the truth from a doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital who I called the "miracle worker. The first surgery affected the cartilage in my shoulder and overtime lost all the cartilage in my shoulder.

The time taken away from my work has been difficult and trying to stay positive is hard. I have hit the wall a couple of times over the years and just had to pray that I could go on. But, I have also realized that I am so blessed to have all that I have. If it wasn't for my surgery, I would not have heard the voice from above. Sometimes we need to be humbled to begin again. I am a different person than I was several years ago. Now I want to serve and help others. I wish to spread my message about all people existing in the Living Circle in peace and harmony to as many people as will listen.

We all must be advocates for ourselves, ask the questions, get second opinions be tough and ask why. Women must be strong and stand up for themselves. I have learned many lessons about life and about not giving up. No one is perfect, apologies are important to maintain balance and harmony. No one is better then someone else. We are all humans just trying to fulfill out dreams, live a good life, love others and preserve this world for generations to come.

The Living Circle

What motivated you to go to Uganda and work with the Beacon of Hope students? How has that experience shaped your art and your concept of the Living Circle?

I dreamed about going to Africa. When my mother passed, I had these visions about Africa and going there to spread my concept of the Living Circle. Part of my vision and all of it coming together has been 'you've got to spread it to all parts of the world.'

Can you talk about the process of making the mural?

When we arrived on that Sunday we went to the church service under a huge fig tree and there were four hundred students sitting outside and the music was incredible. Their electronic piano was keeping a wonderful beat and students were dancing, singing and clapping their hands with the joy of God in their heart. We got out of the van and there were seats in front of the entire school for the 18 of us who went to Uganda. Each of us was introduced and then, Dorsey our rector gave a sermon. I will never forget what he said and how he said it. He talked to the young women first and then to the young men.

To the women he said something like, "sisters don't let those men use you, stand up be proud you are a special person and feel good about yourself." Those words were so meaningful to many of us. We women, students, teachers and missionaries could identify with that. I remembered all that I had gone through with my shoulder and friends who had stories about how they had been hurt as well. In that moment, everyone sitting under the tree was one. If we all could love one another in The Living Circle and connect our lives in harmony and balance, our earth would be a much better place.

Can you talk your next project, The Living Circle, and what the significance of that project is?

The show is called is the Living Circle. The meaning of the Living Circle is why I am doing this project. The theme and overall concept is that all animals, all people exist in the living circle and if we don't learn to exist together as a people and live in harmony with the world around us, we won't survive and the Earth will decay.

It is an honor for me to be showing at The Copley Society in Boston, My work is organic and somewhat different so I'm thankful for the opportunity to have this exhibit. The display will consist of 14 paintings and will be held May 19th until July 2nd. It is an installation in a small room called the Red Room. The walls will be covered with canvas painted to coordinate with my work. The paintings will be mounted on the canvas. The illusion of stretching the canvas around the room, over the windows is to create a circle. The shapes of each painting will connect to the next piece. As you go around the room, the paintings will connect to make a circle. It will be a circle around the world showing sunrise to sunset moving from Boston to Uganda to Italy and home again to Massachusetts. There will actually be three circles: you have the paintings around the room that are connected by their shapes, people and animals that are part of the circle, and there will be a 24 hour day period which is the circle of a full day.

Each of us has our own circle. The paintings for The Copley Society represent my circle of the places I have been to around the world. This is my journey that I am sharing with you, the audience, as part of my calling. All our circles connect and float in the larger circle representing all life. It is important that all our personal circles and the circles of all animals and life work together in harmony within the bigger circle. This is what will keep all life, nature and living things in balance and harmony.

So this exhibit is very special to me. Maybe it will make an impact on others, give people hope, help people stand up and be proud! And above all we need peace in our land. We must all be one, sisters and brothers of all colors and from all countries. We are all humans and we must live in peace to protect this wonderful planet, earth!

"Last night I had the strangest dream I ever had before-
I dreamed the world had all agreed to put an end to war.
I dreamed there was a mighty room and the room was filled with men
And the paper they were signing said they'd never fight again.

And when the paper was signed
And a million copies made
They all joined hands and circled 'round
And grateful prayers were made.

And the people on the streets below
Were dancing 'round and 'round
With swords and guns and uniforms
All scattered on the ground.

Last night I had the strangest dream.
I ever had before.
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war

Written by Ed McCurdy in 1950 and recorded by Joan Baez.