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Notebook & Easel: A Clement Arts Blog

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Peek into the Process


I am excited for you to meet a guest to the Notebook & Easel. I was introduced to Sofia Rector's work through the Black Barn online community and immediately captivated by her ability to weave together creative expression and faith through painting, prose and poetry. When I read about her recent project, Unless a Seed, and how it was formed from her family's recent journey with adoption, I knew I needed to share her art with our readers. Welcome, Sofia!

- Carmen


How might a seed feel…
Grown to maturity—
Smooth, hard, dark—
Swaying as air buffets,
Sensing the branch’s hold weaken?
 
How might a seed feel…
Falling loose, uncontrolled,
Bumping, cap shaken off,
Rolling to a stop—
Looking up at its former place?
by Sofia Rector

 

Acorn and Branch
Acorn and Branch

Sofia Rector

So begins Unless a Seed, my current collection of art and prose-poetry. The seven-part cycle witnesses an acorn’s fall, following it through burial and fragmentation, to its emergence as a sapling and growth into a tree bearing acorns of its own. It is a journey of identification that meditates on hiddenness, brokenness, and hope.

This particular expression of creativity took frustrated moments in church, and hopes deferred as we walked towards adoption, and grief, and quiet, and… Well, perhaps it would be best to start at the beginning of the story. Will you join me as I revisit vignettes of the process?


The first seed image emerged onto paper, along with words, as part of a frustrated response to a sermon on casting a vision for the new year. 

Sermon Journal
Sermon Journal

Sofia Rector

The image and words stayed with me as we forced a hyacinth bulb: for weeks  watching the slow progress of root formation in our dark basement, waiting until we could bring it up to the light. I sketched the bulb in oil pastels, and thought I was done with that idea.

Hyacinth Pastel Sketch
Hyacinth Pastel Sketch

Sofia Rector


Months passed, months which grew increasingly weightier as we walked towards the end of a home study that we had begun in October of 2017 with hopes of domestic infant adoption. 2018 had brought us two broken placements. 2019 found us right in the middle of grief and hope for a joyful resolution, as well as in the midst of discerning what to do if we reached the end of the home study period without a placement.

I let January's image fade from my mind, but then on a get-away in July with my husband, I read these pages from Emily P. Freeman's The Next Right Thing:

Next Right Thing

If you feel stuck in a hopeless place today, I don't want to rush you to joy. Maybe you need to spend a little time letting the darkness do what darkness does-nourish, strengthen, and hold. The darkness can invite us into mystery, a place where we don't know the answer. We know that seeds need to bury down deep in the ground, sometimes for a long, long time. Eventually, those seeds will break open and take root. But first they have to settle into the darkness. Still that seed carries within it a narrative of hope. It just hasn't lived into the whole story yet.

 

Freeman's words were a reminder-a confirmation, an elaboration- of the words and images that had come to mind, fittingly enough, on the day of Epiphany, at the start of that year. To be honest, I had let that image fade from my mind, possibly willingly, because I wanted to leave this season behind... But there I was, recognizing the mystery of the uncertainty that is life, made undeniable by the weird state of limbo that waiting on a domestic adoption had been. I didn't know how our journey would end, but the whole story had not been told, and so I settled into the darkness (again), trusting that this was a narrative of hope.


We reached the end of our home study in October, with the sense that renewing the home study was not our next step. What next? I fumbled at the answer as I both grieved and tried to avoid grieving how our journey towards adoption had ended.

 

Early November found me driving from Cincinnati to the northern suburbs of Columbus, listening through Drew Miller's Desolation and Consolation albums with my kindred-spirit friend Amanda. We were on our way to Myriad, a one-day retreat hosted by Refine {the retreat}. Driving through the ubiquitous Ohio corn and soybean fields we listened as Miller lamented and longed:

 

...I am no stranger to your silence
Though I would rather know your voice
All my faith is in defiance
My only hope is to rejoice
 
In how small are the seeds that you sow
And how slow do they grow
 
You're too good not to be true
So where are you?
How long will it be till we know how slow?

 

Watercolor

Sofia Rector

The same afternoon, we found ourselves delighting in color and play as Christine Heister led us through a meditation on Colossians 1:15-20. While we emptied dropper-fulls of concentrated water colors onto circles glossy with brushed-on water, she read:

 

We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. [...] From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.


January 2020 came with a strong sense that God was inviting me into quiet space, and so I stepped back from my social media interactions for about a month. During that time, I ordered my home, journaled, worked on illustrations, and sketched out images of seeds and their growth into a tree.

Oak Sapling sketches
Oak Sapling sketches

Sofia Rector

Silver and Gold Tree on black
Silver and Gold Tree on Black

Sofia Rector

Finally, I began playing with puddles of water and swirls of concentrated colors, as I had been wanting to do since participating in November's Myriad retreat.


When I came to the end of January, I considered how I might share my collection of seed images once I was back to sharing artwork on Instagram. In my journal, I scrawled out significant themes, quotations and Bible verses close to my heart… until I found prose-poem-like reflections emerging. 


Here the vignettes end, but the story of the artwork is certainly not complete: Not complete in terms of an exhaustive, nuanced, retelling--these were, after all, simply glimpses of high-visibility moments-- and not complete in terms of having reached full growth.

This summer I’ve had the privilege of sharing Unless a Seed  in the Art Gallery at Blackbarnonline.com, where I have found the artwork—and my soul—enriched by the heartfelt responses of those who have come and sat with the artwork. The virtual gallery wall is full of annotations in the cadences of their voices. As I have read and responded to members’ and visitors’ commentary, my heart has been reawakened to the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, in and through us and through the work we are given to walk in. I am thankful that He who began the good work is faithful to complete it.


Be sure to check out more of Sofia's work:

Instagram 

Etsy 

Facebook

Thank you for being our guest, Sofia! 

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