During the month of January, the pub of the University of Toronto's Faculty Club displayed a collection of 20 mandalas created by a group of Sisters of St. Joseph. One by Virginia Varley CSJ, called Carnival of the Stars, is shown at the right.
To quote Elizabeth Rosson, the artist and retreat facilitator who led the retreat at which these mandalas were created, "Mandala is a Sanskrit word for 'circle', a symbol of wholeness, perfection, unity and eternity… a place where the invisible is made visible."
The mandalas shown at the Faculty Club are the fruit of the retreat made last spring by a number of sisters, including those whose work was shown: Sisters Peggy Bach, Georgette Gregory, Betty Lou Knox, Patricia Macauley, Marie McNamara, Grace Sauvé, Dorothy Schweitzer, Janet Speth and Virginia Varley.
The exhibit showed how varied each sister's work with the circle could be.
Sister Virginia often illustrates semi-realism in her connecting with the universe. Her "Carnival of the Stars," above, fairly explodes with colour and vitality.
Sister Grace's "Transformation," see right, used soft tones of blue, purple and green with a little red and yellow, all on a black background. Her centre is six-pointed, and forms the foundation for many layers of curves built outward to the circular boundary. Butterflies hide within her circle.
Of her work called "Surrender" Sr. Patricia said, "Milk-weed pods for me are a symbol of letting go. I had seen them on my walks. I did seven milk-weed pods at different stages of opening and letting go into the air."
Sister Betty Lou's "Drop Down Dew" moves from a central spiral through eight offshoot triangles.
Sister Peggy commented, "While on retreat, I became aware of how amazing it is that I was born at all…in a family of seven children." Fittingly, her mandala is entitled "My Story of Family."
Sister Dorothy had two very different mandalas in the group. Her "Serendipity" shows a central swirl of purple and blue with the boundary circle enhanced by lace-like filigree. She said, "I created several mandalas… I delighted in the colour patterns that emerged. This creative experience enabled me to be in communion with God or, to use Elizabeth Rosson's words, 'to be intimate with Divine Mystery.'"