"Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread but give us roses too."
(Excerpt from "Bread & Roses", by James Oppenheim, 1911.)
Over the past two years, we've heard countless debates over who or what is considered "essential". Which begs the question as to what "essential" even means? If essential is that which merely keeps one's body existing, then life is reduced to survival. Beauty is essential to move from surviving to thriving. Beauty is the door to wonder. Einstein once said, "He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand in rapt awe, is as good as dead." Wonder moves our minds from the temporal to the transcendent.
The poem was written at a time when life overflowed with dark, dismal drudgery. Many people lived and worked in unsafe and unsanitary conditions. Women had not yet obtained the right to vote. This poem became an anthem of sorts to the workers' and women's movement of the time, rousing the culture to action. Yet how can one demand something as extravagant as roses when people are starving in the streets? As the poem states, our hearts can equally starve, just as much as the body. Since we are created Imago Dei, in the image of God, we are more than just bodies; we have souls, minds and bodies. Every aspect of our being needs to be cared for in order to truly live.
I was inspired to create the Bread & Roses Collection in response to the poem and our current cultural climate. The starkness of the black and cream background alludes to the contrast between life and death. Soft shades of coral and pink color the roses, creating a feminine feel. Rather than stolidly standing in a vase or bouquet, the roses ramble in a loose form, giving the work a quality of individuality. The need to experience and express beauty is essential to our identity as people made in God's image. Beauty truly is food for the soul.