Several months ago I introduced one of my newest Holy Women Icons with a folk feminist twist, the intrepid traveler and passionate nomad, Freya Stark. In writing about her fearless journeys to far-flung places women only dreamed of visiting in the early 1900s, I also shared that my wife, toddler, and I have decided to follow her fierce lead into the seemingly unknown. In less than one month, our journey will begin as we spend an entire year volunteer traveling throughout the United States. We have sold our home. We finish teaching summer courses at the end of the month. And in Freya’s courageous words, we have decided that “it is the beckoning that counts, not the clicking latch behind you.” The beckoning is calling us to live more gently with the earth, do more justice, and to create a more peace-filled world. And we have the privilege of radically altering our lives to follow this beckoning.
This time next month, we’ll be settled into our little pop-up camper in the Green Mountain National Forest of Vermont where we’re volunteering for three months. In the fall, we’ll do the same in the southernmost part of the Shenandoah Valley. December will find our trusty camper—aptly named “Freya Stark”—chugging east to west across the southern parts of the United States, parking in the San Francisco Bay Area so that we can fly to Hawaii to volunteer on an organic farm and lead yoga retreats for the first three months of 2016.
We’re excited to spend this quality time with our little family nestled into Freya-the-Camper’s warm embrace. But the three of us won’t be the only ones taking on this adventure. We’ll be accompanied by 20 of my Holy Women Icons. Of the over 50 icons I’ve painted, the ones that aren’t in private collections or galleries remain with me. So, as we packed our home and hatched our plans to volunteer, travel, learn new skills, and do vocational discernment along the way, I wondered what I might do with these beloved women. I couldn’t just shove them into a box and leave them for a year!
So, my Holy Women Icons are officially going on tour. This motley crew of unlikely saints are accompanied by one of my books, also named Holy Women Icons, along with their artist/creator (that’s me), my beloved life companion, and a bright-eyed toddler with an affinity for smelling flowers, pointing to the moon, and pretending to snore and then laughing hysterically. A motley crew we are, indeed. In our rag-tag camper, our little family will be accompanied by Gaia, Sophia, the Grimké sisters, Sarasvati, Anna Julia Cooper, Aurora, Frida Kahlo, Pauli Murray, Perpetua and Felicity, Pachamama, and so many others. Freya is joining us, as well, of course. And I can’t help but picture her—90 years old, wildly driving her make-shift camper bumpily along the Italian countryside, boundaries and propriety billowing in the dust kicked up by her well-worn tires. As we set up Freya-the-Camper for her maiden voyage, we pinned my icons all over, a cavalcade of color exploding off the metal siding and canvas top. Crooked and falling, messy and holy—kind of like us—these icons transformed our little camper into a temple of sorts, a sacred space reminding us to pause, show gratitude, and be bold.
As you may imagine, we received our fair share of strange glances from fellow campers. But we also shared some meaningful and unlikely conversations with women now emboldened by these brightly painted saints to do more justice, live more creatively, and be a bit more revolutionary. It is my sincere hope that by taking my beloved Holy Women Icons on tour for the next year, more of such conversations may follow, more women may become empowered, more beauty and justice may be done.
Here’s the catch, though. I need the help of the Feminism and Religion community to make this tour a reality. While there are some galleries, events, and book signings already in the works, the Holy Women Icons are also spending a considerable amount of time in a giant bin, taking up much-needed space in our already cramped camper.
If you’re interested in hosting an event, exhibit, lecture, worship service, workshop, sermon, retreat, or book signing with my Holy Women Icons while we’re in your area, please comment below or contact me directly so that these bold, revolutionary women can step out of the bins of history and into your classrooms, churches, galleries, centers, seminaries, or homes. Vermont, Virginia, North Carolina, Atlanta, the southern route across the United States, California, the Big Island of Hawaii, and Washington will be the temporary homes of these unlikely saints for the next year. If you’d like to connect, look, revel, savor, paint, dance, pray, or find empowerment alongside of them, I would be thrilled.
Along the way, I’ll keep you updated of the holy women’s wanderings here and at our travel site, Searching for Sustenance. As I join them on tour, I’ll also be creating my newest project under contract, Holy Women Icons: A Coloring Book, which is my hope for teaching younger audiences about the bold, revolutionary, inspiring, and empowering stories of these holy women. Plus, I’m convinced that adults would be a lot happier if we colored more frequently. So, sharpen your crayons, check your calendars to see if you could be a tour-stop along the way, consider donating to our cause, and ask yourself, “where is the beckoning calling me?”
Rev. Dr. Angela Yarber has a PhD in Art and Religion from the Graduate Theological Union at UC Berkeley and is author of Embodying the Feminine in the Dances of the World’s Religions, The Gendered Pulpit: Sex, Body, and Desire in Preaching and Worship, Dance in Scripture: How Biblical Dancers can Revolutionize Worship Today, Holy Women Icons, and Tearing Open the Heavens: Selected Sermons from Year B. She has been a clergywoman and professional dancer and artist since 1999. For more on her research, ministry, dance, or to purchase one of her icons, visit: www.angelayarber.com