Sacred Artist Interview: Bette Norcross Wappner

I am really excited about this new weekly feature on my blog for 2008 — I will be interviewing artists who keep an awareness of the sacred at the heart of their creative work.  I want to explore how others merge their art and spirituality and give you, my dear readers, some more insights into this connection.

I am especially delighted to begin this series by interviewing Bette Norcross Wappner or b’oki as she is known by her poet’s pen name.  Bette found my blog not too long after I started writing one, about a year and a half ago.  She is a great example of one of the reasons I keep blogging — the chance to get to know some marvelous creative people who live miles away from me but share a passion for art and the sacred. 

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“Cool Blue” — one of Bette’s beautiful woodcut prints with haiku

So let’s dive into the wisdom Bette has to offer us:

What is your faith tradition?

I was raised in a Pentecostal church and then joined the Lutheran faith when I met my husband-to-be in 1986. Altogether, the two faith traditions and Eastern spiritual beliefs of contemplation and mystical union with nature, have given me a beautiful balance of Holy Spirit, Liturgical Spirit, and Nature Spirit. 

What is your primary art media?

Japanese short-form poetry — haiku and waka/tanka written in English, and woodblock printmaking in the old Japanese water-based, hand-burnished technique called Moku-Hanga.

How do you experience the connection between spirituality and creativity?

Only through my interaction with Nature am I truly able to experience a powerful synergy of spirituality and creativity. Being in nature clears my mind of worldliness, filling me with peace, joy, and deep and mysterious Beauty that can only belong to a higher power — God. 

What role does spiritual practice have in your art-making?

My spiritual practice has certainly evolved in my fifty years on Earth. I feel that being in nature, contemplating upon beautiful nature photography, writing poetry, creating art, showing love and kindness to others — all to be an over-all spiritual practice of art-making!

What sparked your spiritual journey?

When I was a teenager, I had wonderful spiritual experiences at church camps and being baptized fully-immersed. But as an adult, my true spiritual journey really started when I took a Beginning Haiku class online in the fall of 2002. When I learned how to be aware of nature and to describe my meditations in a disciplined 3-line, short-form poem, my mind, spirit, and soul opened wide up.

What sparked your artistic journey?

The first spark into my artistic journey was when I was a young girl and my artistic mother and I would lay on the floor together and color in coloring books. I became a graphic designer and Art Director in my mid-twenties; then after I became a stay-at-home-mom I slowly gave up my graphic design and took up fine-art. 

Do you have a particular process you use when entering into your creative work?

Writing Japanese short-form poetry in English has been my main creative work. The process I use when I am particularly inspired and captured by an image of nature is to enter into peaceful meditation. Then I start to write down the realistic beauty I see in that image. After that, I write down human emotions that relate to that image. Sometimes woodblock prints are born from my nature poetry and that is a special bonus!

How does your art-making shape your image of God?

As an artist, God has given me the ability to express what I see and feel through my art-making. My desire is for others to see and feel images of God in my creations.

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A deep bow of gratitude to Bette for sharing of herself in this way.  I love the way creativity infuses her whole life and I especially love the paradox of discovering a specific form of poetry as the catalyst for an opening of the soul.

Go visit her Flickr page to see more beautiful woodblock prints and come back tomorrow for a visual meditation.

One more day to submit your poem for this week’s Poetry Party!  Go read the latest submissions, as usual it is an abundance of poetic beauty.

-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts

(middle photo is of Bette with her drum — one of her new passions and the bottom print is “Leaping Goddess” also by Bette)

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