Archive for the ‘Rae’ Category

The Labyrinth

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

This Labyrinth was a community project. It began under the sponsorship fo The Earth Conclave in 1997. The canvas was sewn, the path outlined, gesso applied, and designs painted. Many people have participated and added to the whole. Each participant, whether by adding color or images to the design, or by walking the path, adds energy and spirit. The path in to the center and out again becomes more intricate and meaningful each time it is walked. With each person’s addition, the symbology and magic grows.

A Labyrinth is a unicursal (single-path) maze. The path leads eventually to the center, with twists and turns that take us close to the middle, then out toward the edge, before finally reaching the still heart at the center. It is a metaphor, a walking journey to the center of ourselves, the center of the mystery. We then return to ourselves anew, by the same familiar path.

Here it is in process, being painted by members of our family, and art and pagan community. Click for full image.

Update: The Labyrinth now has a new Home.  It is in the care of the First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive, Madison WI.

The Yurt

Friday, June 7th, 2013

The Yurt began it’s life as a concept, and as a Tipi.TOSHIBA Exif JPEG

The concept was the circle.  The sacred circle, the circle of life, the ritual circle.  Rae’s Tipi was at the end of its useful life, but the goddess figures from its interior were mostly still OK.  The Tipi was a home and a sacred space.  Living and worshiping in the round fascinated Rae, and she was drawn to the yurt concept even when she was working on the Tipi. She collected pictures and articles,  looked for details of construction, etc.  Rae bought a book in 2003: Tipis & Yurts: Authentic designs for Circular Shelters.

She considered buying a Yurt, or a Yurt kit, but the expense was considerable, and we had most of the skills.  Rae wrote to a yurt company for info, and they sent her a sample of their construction of the khans, the latticework that comprises the frame of the yurt.  It was made of clear pine 1 X 2, riveted with large aluminum rivets.  Most of the do-it-yourself instructions had either traditional string/twine, or 1/4″ bolts (which leave a lot of ends, can work their way loose, and added up to a LOT of bolts.
So we found a place that sold rivets wholesale, took our sample, found a match and bought 1000 plus an industrial rivet tool.  1 x 2 lumber is very seldom clear, but you can find 2X6 that is fairly knot-free, so we figured out the ideal width for the rivets (about 5/8″), and ripped a mess of them from 2X6 Douglas fir, set up a jig to drill the holes in exactly the same place in each piece, and riveted them together.  For ease of storage, we divided the khans into 2 parts, connected with bolts.  The calculations for where the holes went, were complicated, had to take into account the height we wanted (finished size with the roof had to fit into a standard room with 8′ ceiling), the circumference (she chose a 13′ circle, of course) minus the door, etc.

Black canvas was found for the walls, and sewed into 6′ by 37′ panels, one for the inside, one for the outside.  A waterproof top was found, and made into a form-fitting dome by cutting a wedge to the center, and having that heat-sealed by a local boat-cover maker (Marine Tops Unlimited, thanks Steve!).TOSHIBA Exif JPEG

We devised a method for rafter attachment at the center, non-traditional since no smoke hole was needed, added a track lighting setup, and attached a couple of hundred eye-hooks to the underside of the rafters, to hang  small plexiglass mirrors, cut into random shapes to represent broken stained glass, representing the “stained glass ceiling” limiting women’s roles in mainstream religion (picture below).  The door frame and door were designed and decorated, the 5 individual goddess figurines attached to the canvas, and it was ready to go!
yurt_open yurtgoddessmirror  glassceiling


The goddesses all had upraised arms, forming crescents around a circular mirror in place of a face.  each piece is special, and has a story.  Earth,  Spider, Fire, Water, and Buffalo.  They include stuffed-work, embroidery, bead-work, shells, and felting.

The interior floor is also canvas, with a painted pentagram, and religious symbols from multiple traditions stenciled around the edges.

This was Rae’s largest piece.  We are considering taking the 5 goddess figures and mounting them separately on frames, and offering them for sale.

Celtic Totem

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

OK, so one more Broom, then perhaps I’ll turn to some of Rae’s other  themes, especially if I start getting more feedback.  Any requests?  Cabinets, Cauldrons, Mirrors, Weavings, Copper Electroforms?  Eventually I’ll get them all.

Celtic Totem

Celtic Totem

The Celtic Totem, I think, was the first piece Rae did in Basswood.   She also used broomcorn that we grew in our garden plot at Eagle heights.  (The poor raccoons, who usually got most of the sweetcorn folks planted there, were so confused, it just kept growing taller, and never had any ears to steal!)

It was the most complex carving she did to that date, too, because it was to tell a story.  One that she related many times, unlike most of her other pieces, where if she told the story, it was to an individual or small group, and seldom repeated.

The story is a retelling of one she heard as a child, from her Irish ancestry.  As I recall it:

“Long ago, Ireland was a cold and rock island.  The cold, the poor soil, and the weather made it hard to live there.  The women cried because their children went hungry.  “

Base to Celtic Totem

Base to Celtic Totem

The base, with the homegrown broomcorn, carved to represent a rocky, mountainous island.

“Their tears fell through cracks in the earth and woke a Dragon sleeping there, who then heard their cries.   Out of compassion, she used her fiery breath to warm the land from beneath, making the island lush and green.”

“The women learned the power in their bodies,  had many children, and learned from the island.  They learned to grow food, to raise families.  They grew numerous.dragon-woman

From the wolf, they learned about community, about sharing and protecting each other.  And so they lived their lives well till they died, when the Raven took their souls back to the Earth.”

Celtic Totem top

Celtic Totem top

The broom “stick” is one large piece of basswood.  Rae drew the design on a large strip of paper, transfered it using carbon paper t the front, then flipped both wood and paper to do the same on the back, (just the outline), then sketched in the things that would be viewed on the back.  on each side she did similar sketches, then started removing large chunks of wood.

The carving process

The carving process

At some point, I remember coming up with the idea to mount the piece vertically, so we created a set of braces with “lazy-susan” bearings, and used a small pneumatic jack to tighten the whole thing up against a ceiling joist in the garage.


Rae was very proud of this piece.  She liked her Irish heritage, the symbols all had special power for her, and she wanted to do a Sheela-na-gig ever since she first came on them in her research.  A review of her show by a reporter from a Madison newspaper, I think, called it a “broom for a god”.

Rae, a woman of many talents

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Dear Family,

Thank you for the beautiful images of Rae’s funeral. I am reminded of how short our stay is in this physical realm each time I am faced with illness and the passing of a loved one. Our dear Rae is still with us in our hearts.  I will always remember her as  a sister, an artist, friend, community activist, art educator–she had so many roles to go with her many talents. She leaves behind a rich legacy, not only in her artwork, but in her two beautiful children and her dear husband Math. This family touched my life time and time again. I am reminded of the unwavering committment  Math, Casey and Ethan provided to the endless lists of things to do for Rae’s causes. They always took on a great deal of responsibility, out of their love and admiration for her. I will always be reminded of this during the many art exhibits I was fortunate enough to see hung and be involved with, and how the shows became collaborations by the entire family. Such a beautiful foursome this family made.

I will always remember the times spent with Rae co-teaching together at the UW-Madison Art Department as graduate students and TA’s. Rae led the cause for feminist artists and all minorities as she explored multiculturalism in the arts–forging paths to make opportunities for all artists to be heard and seen. I will never forget the time as TA’s, we were chastized by a few professors in the art department for teaching “multiculturalism” in our 2-D, 3-D sections. These few professors were so frustrated with Rae, me and Mary Bennet for teaching multiculturalism in the classroom, that they took it to the level of trying to block our reappointment as teachers. Rae knew exactly what to do. Rae always knew what to do. Rae would laugh, that deep belly laugh and then begin to work the system from the front, back, top, bottom and sides.  She guided us as a group of young teachers, to the Student Union and pleaded our case and cause for our reappointment which eventually took our case all the way up Bascom Hill to Dean Trueba in the Department of Education. After weeks of deliberation, our appointments were granted and the professors involved were strongly encouraged to back off.

I learned so much from her during her short life and I am still not done learning from her.  I loved Rae and will always look upon our time together with great fondness.  I will miss her deeply.  I know you are hearing this Rae.  We need you on the other side, but sure miss ya here.  Thanks Rae for such great moments … you will be treasured and remembered often.

Barbara Westfall

Birthday Party!

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

As many of you know,  Rae had her 56th birthday Feb 16th, but did not have a party because she was tired of winter birthdays, and decided to have it in May, instead.  So we are celebrating her last birthday this Saturday, May 16th, at our home (directions furnished on request).  We have been scurrying to get the place together to showcase her art, and will have a slide show, sharing of stories, refreshments, entertainment of some sort (even if Math has to do his magic act!), and maybe some games, if the weather cooperates.

Here are a few of the other images I have been able to get together. – math


Monday, March 9th, 2009

Rae was part of the Natural Passings Collective, helping plan the workshop and panel coming up March 27-29 in  Madison.  She gave us some unanticipated hands-on experience.  Here are some picutes of her burial.

All my love and support to Math and Family

Monday, March 9th, 2009

I knew Rae for many years, all the way back to some of the early PSG days.  My fondest memories of her include; her work and classes on meditation, the workshop I taught with her on handfastings at PPD, her craftshop at an RCGI event on miniature art and Goddess doll making, her political activism and her work in both interfaith and intra-faith.  I honored her outspoken ways AND her willingness to change her mind when given cause.  I identified with her feminist lifestyle and beliefs and her advocacy for prison rights, in fact, I identified with her advocacy for all who are oppressed by the system of class-ism, and all “isms”.

I also loved her art, was the recipient of her hospitality on numerous occasions, and appreciated her fine mind and greatly appreciated that she “walked between the tribes”, as I have been called to do.

I did not hear of her death until Thursday evening, due to not checking my email because of my own bout with the flu.  It was a very unhappy shock for me.

I will cherish what I learned from her and hold you, her closest friends and family in my heart during these hard times.

Many blessings and all my love,

Mari Powers

Her national reach

Monday, March 9th, 2009

In the early to mid 1990s Rae served for eight years on the national board of the Women’s Caucus for Art, the nation’s oldest and largest multidisciplinary women’s art organization. During much of that time she was the Vice President in charge of Chapter Development. She put together board and organizational development materials that are still a model of clarity and usability. She and Math also traveled to Philadelphia at no small cost to themselves to the organization’s headquarters to computerize the office and membership database. I have been receiving messages from artists around the country saddened by her loss and I share some of them here.

My heart is heavy yet my spirit flies with her………….she will always be a part of my work. Future Akins, artist, Lubbock, Texas

How sad that someone whose art was so vibrant should die so young. I will never forget how lovely the piece she did for the women’s studies conference exhibit was, or her magical series of brooms. I hope that there will be a major retrospective of her work and a catalogue to document it. I would certainly enjoy owning one and would enjoy teaching students about her work. It makes one reflect on how the work of many important women artists is not sufficiently documented. My condolences go to everyone who has known and loved Rae at this sad moment. Gail Tremblay, artist, poet, and professor, Evergreen State, and past national president of the WCA

Rae Atira-Soncea, woman of heart and woman of art. She was an amazing presence wherever she went. I recall going to the WCA National board meetings and other events and watching Rae share her powerful spirit with all of us. We will miss her. I will miss her. Flo Oy Wong, artist, Sunnydale, California

I didn’t know Rae very well, but I loved her work! This is very sad and a terrible loss. Please accept my condolences. It is wonderful that you are working on a retrospective that was started while Rae was still alive… Susan Noyes Platt, art historian and critic, Seattle, Washington

I’m so sorry to hear about Rae. I have such fond memories of working with her on the board of WCA. Susan Grabel Rappaport, artist, New York City

We have lost Rae. She was a wonderful artist and inspiration to so many. Ruth Waters, sculptor, and Founder & Director at 1870 Art Center, Belmont, CA

Oh, this is the saddest news. What a wonderful, smart and insightful woman. Margaret McDowell, artist, Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas

I am sorry to hear the news about Rae. She was a very fine and powerful artist. I’m glad I got a chance to see the show you had together at the Commonwealth Gallery in Madison. Thanks for letting me know. My sympathy and blessings to her family. You’ll be in my thoughts and prayers. Katherine Rogers, artist, Minneapolis

Thank you so much for letting me know of Rae’s untimely passing. I hope the retrospective and catalog is realized. At least there should be a record of her wonderful work. Jean Towgood, artist, Los Angeles, and past national president of the national WCA

Rae Atira-Soncea had a vibrant personality and generous spirit. She will be
missed. Te acompaño en los sentimientos– my spirit is with you in this very sad
time. Imna Arroyo, artist, professor, Connecticut, and past national president of the WCA.

Very sad news. It reminds me of just how tenuous life can be. Please keep me up to date on the progress of her show and catalog-we all need to remember this very special person–Life is a journey and it is sad that her journey has ended-but the legacy of her work and life will continue on in all of us whose life she touched. Ann Webb, artist, Houston, TX

As I grow older, I am constantly reminded of the brevity of our lives on earth. Rae was a powerful voice. She taught me so much…….and she was there, for us, when we needed her voice. Jo Hockenull, artist, Independence, Oregon

I am so saddened to hear about Rae. A powerful soul has left and her spot will be empty forever. Betsy Damon, artist, New York

Landscape Quilt

Friday, March 6th, 2009

This is the quilt Rae asked to have wrapped around her.   She had pinned it up, but it still needed a bit of work, sewing, basting, and removing the pins.  Thanks to all who helped with the sewing.  landscape_quilt

Looking for Beech wood

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Rae had asked Casey to make a beechwood bench in her memory, for folks to sit at at her grave, if they like.  Does anyone viewing this know of a dying Beech tree, or a log, or some lumber we can get.  Beech (genus Fagus) is not common around here, more back East.  We will find something, I’m sure, but one way is to ask…