Rancho Santa Fe artist shares a positive message of “Unity” through art

Kerry Soori McEachern, artist and graphic designer from Rancho Santa Fe, has created a community collaborative art project to promote the message of unity, peace, love and inclusiveness for all.

His sculpture “Oneness” debuted May 14 in the Beloved’s Garden of Oneness exhibit at the Encinitas Community Center as part of Encinitas Art Night. More than 700 people visited the exhibition to experience a cross-cultural and cross-faith celebration with art, performances and speakers.

The “Oneness” installation is a large typographic sculpture partially covered with a rainbow of messages folded into origami paper flowers. Each note includes a person’s reflection on the meaning of unity and their wishes for the future of humanity and the planet.

“It was all based on what I learned through Sufisim, the concept of unity, that everything in existence is in harmony and connected,” McEachern said. “Although varying in color and message, the flowers all have one thing in common: they are made of paper. It is a reminder to humanity that regardless of outward, physical, cultural and religious differences, we are all born of existence and from the same source of life. In other words, we all share the gift of life.

Beloved’s Garden of Oneness exhibit, which features 11 artists, will remain on view in Encinitas through June 30. The exhibition is sponsored by the MTO Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism, a global non-profit organization.

Sufism, as Professor MTO Nader Angha says, is “a bridge between religions”. It is a discipline and education that facilitates a journey of self-knowledge for people to come to know their true selves, break free from limitations and attachments, and experience freedom, peace, and tranquility in their lives. .

The students at the school, like McEachern, represent a cross-section of humanity, from all walks of life, different cultures and religions.

McEachern has been a resident of Rancho Santa Fe since 2015, along with her husband and two young children. American and part-Persian, she was born in Orlando, Florida, and lived in Iran until she was 14.

His background is quite unique: his father was an American from Georgia, raised as a Baptist, and his mother is Iranian and Muslim but not from a religious family. They met and married in Iran in the late 1970s and fled to Florida during the revolution when all Americans were ordered out of the country.

The start of the Iran-Iraq war and the political climate made it difficult for Iranians in America and shortly after her first birthday, her mother returned with her to Iran. Her father was not allowed to enter the country and they separated when she was six years old. At 14, she convinced her mother to let her build a life outside of Iran and reconnected with her father in Orlando.

In Iran, she sometimes felt like the only American, and in Florida, she also felt misplaced. Although American, Farsi was her first language and she did not understand South American culture. For a long time she struggled with who she was.

“I was trying to figure out my path,” McEachern said. “I searched a lot for answers about what my identity was.”

McEachern discovered Sufism in 2002 and during her very first session, when the speaker asked the question, “Who are you?” she felt it spoke to her heart.

He then read a quote: “If there was one in the world, and it was you, what would your name be?” Who would you be? Would you hate? Would you like? If there was one, and that one had all the knowledge of the universe, and could meet all your needs and desires, what would you do? Sufism is about this “One”.

“It was the start of this beautiful journey to get back to the original version of who I really am,” she said.

In her journey of self-knowledge, her art became a means of expressing the teachings of Sufism. She also began to get involved in interfaith community activities, bringing her perspective from a very unique multicultural background.

In 2019, McEachern was among the faith leaders attending Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear’s Interfaith Community Prayer Breakfast. The event came a week after the Poway Synagogue shooting in which four people were shot and a woman killed.

“Everyone was very saddened and upset by the tragedy,” McEachern said.

Over breakfast, Blakespear challenged each representative to take responsibility and create more awareness, acceptance and tolerance in their communities. McEachern took that message to heart.

“At that moment, as an artist and a student of Sufism, I thought about what could be done to act, beyond words,” she said.

McEachern discussed his idea for a Unity Art Celebration with MTO and pitched it to the City of Encinitas in 2019, working with the city’s Cultural Arts Department to organize the exhibition as part of Art Night. Due to the pandemic, it was postponed to this year.

With her sculpture Oneness, she wanted to involve the public and launch the call from September 2021. She spoke at interfaith meetings, schools, churches and community organizations to spread the word about this what she was looking for. Each participant had to answer two questions: “If you had the opportunity to make a lasting statement, what would you say? and “If you could make the world a better place for the whole human family, what would your message be?”

She left colored papers and a small box for submitting messages, provided postage-paid envelopes and a QR code as a way to submit responses online.

From September 2021 to April 2022, she collected 900 messages.

“It was very touching. It was an honor and a joy, the greatest reward I could have received,” she said. “I was touched that so many human beings took the time to reflect in their hearts and share these wonderful gems of hope, peace and unity.”

The polystyrene Oneness sculpture she designed and had built measures 100 inches wide, 80 inches high, and 12 inches deep. Working with a group of 25 MTO volunteers on April 16, they worked nonstop for nine hours to fold 900 flowers, during a Ramadan fast no less. Handwritten messages were written on papers of different colors and textures and those collected by e-mail were printed using many different fonts.

McEachern and the volunteers worked with attention and care: “Each flower represents a human being and is very precious,” she said. As they folded the flowers, they read the messages and absorbed the poignant words from someone they had never met.

A few days later, working in the empty living room of her house, she and another MTO volunteer worked for 14 straight hours to place all the flowers on the sculpture.

The final result ? So many different flowers, every style and every different person, coming together in unity. McEachern hopes the article reminds people to stop and think: “Remember your human dignity, that you can be so righteous and you can make a difference in the world,” she said. . “It’s a reminder to come back inside and remember your uniqueness and your vision and your message.”

A close-up of Kerry Soori McEachern’s “Sliver of the Infinite Labyrinth” installation.

(Karen Billing)

In addition to the Oneness sculpture, McEachern has also created two other one-of-a-kind pieces that will debut at the show. “Sliver of the Infinite Labyrinth” features multicolored paper cutouts of the word “unity” translated into 110 different world languages. It took almost 200 hours to create.

His other piece, “One Light in All,” is a laser-cut wooden box with words of unity. When lit from within, the words project across the entire wall. During the Beloved’s Garden exhibition, it was placed in a blackout tent to let people fully experience its effect.

While the works from the Beloved’s Garden exhibition will remain on display until June, May 14 was a one-night-only exhibition of his Oneness sculpture and other pieces. It is the hope that the sculpture will be exhibited in other settings as she works with organizations like the 11:11 A Creative Collective in Los Angeles and has met with the Getty Museum to show the piece as part of their events for their 25th anniversary. this summer. She hopes it can be shown again locally.

And it’s still a work in progress. His goal is to have all sides fully covered, which will require around 3,000 unique messages and 3,000 voices.

A single person and artist, McEachern said she was honored to be part of this effort. At a time when there is so much negativity, she thinks it’s a chance to show that there are people out there who believe in love and unity.

“Even though we are different, we are all part of the same human family,” McEachern said.

Additional messages can be emailed to [email protected]

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