A call to give one's life in service of love and compassion
Support Meera in her work
Meera is currently beginning a series of sculptures of women of the Nobel Women's Initiative (NobelWomensInitiative.org) which will be donated to a museum or university.
As a young mother with five children, I never had the opportunity to study art or do much of anything in the way of art expression other than fiber arts. I was 26 years old before I sculpted for the first time. I had decided to take a night school pottery class, thinking I would make plates and cups for my family and get a night out for myself. I’ve always liked working with my hands and, much to my surprise, I didn’t enjoy the potter’s wheel at all. However, in the back of the classroom there was a woman creating a portrait sculpture that fascinated me. My teacher agreed to let me try to create a sculpture, so I brought in photographs of my father and started. My first attempt looked just like him. It seemed to be effortless, and the feeling of the clay in my hands was soothing, enchanting and a bit mysterious. The fact that you can start off with a lump of clay and transform it into a likeness looking back at you is quite an experience.
It was 27 years before I had the opportunity to sculpt again. A dear friend of mine, Chelsea McGraw, is a professional artist. One day she asked, “Meera, have you ever done art?” I told her about my first sculpture, which had long since broken in a houseful of kids. Fortunately, I did have a photograph of it and I showed Chelsea, who said, “Meera, you must sculpt again.” Two weeks later, on my birthday, Chelsea surprised me with a gift of sculpting tools and clay. The journey began.
I pondered whom I would like to sculpt. I had always admired Mahatma Gandhi, so I decided my second sculpture would be of him. When I was finished, friends suggested that I cast it in bronze, so I took foundry classes and learned the bronze process. Several years went by, and I longed to do another sculpture, but I hesitated because of the cost of bronze and casting. Then, one day my local library asked me to put the Gandhi portrait on display for three days. After the three days, they asked if they could keep it for three more weeks because every book about Gandhi in the library was checked out. I now had a great reason to continue despite the expense. So I put one of the sculptures on Ebay and it sold, giving me resourses to continue. I had a voice, and by sculpting, I could share my interest in these lives. The passion for doing this series of humanitarian sculptures was born. I became “an unexpected sculptor.”
Of course it was unknown to me when I created that first portrait of Gandhi that this would start a huge life change -- wonderful, challenging at times, and yet an exciting journey of creativity and adventure.
I had a concern about children knowing about lives of nonviolence and the possibility of nonviolent solutions to problems. So much violence was in the media. I thought if I did a series of sculptures of people who were inspired by the life of Gandhi or dedicated themselves to nonviolent social change, then perhaps I could take them into schools to remind children of powerful alternatives to violence. As a mother/grandmother this was most important to me. So on I went, choosing people who were either inspired by Gandhi or did similar service to humanity, making sure I chose different cultures and countries as I wanted a child in a classroom to know that his ancestry was represented. To this date I have spoken to hundreds of school children.
It took seven years to complete the twenty-one sculptures that are in the series to date. I would love to do two more: Father Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, and Dr. Catherine Hamlin, fistula surgeon extraordinaire. Photos of both of them, as well as photos of all the sculptures, can be seen on the gallery page.
Also, it’s amazing to me to know that three of my sculptures have been placed in public locations. The Dolci sculpture copy is in front of a school in Sicily. Children come there on a regular basis to reflect on his life and work in Sicily.
The Chief Joseph sculpture is in the Lolo Pass Visitor’s Center, a stopping place for adults and children and a place to reflect on his life and work. I am told by the Visitor’s Center that this sculpture is a favorite of visitors. Perhaps you’ve been there?
Mother Theresa’s sculpture is in a hospital in Los Angeles. I donated it to a group of Carmelite Nuns whom I met one day quite by accident. Now it is inspiring people with health challenges to look at them through her eyes.
The whole series is now on exhibit in the Hannon Library at Southern Oregon University where I hope to speak to school children and adults. To schedule a group visit to see the sculptures, call 541-552-6816. I still have dreams of someone else wanting to place them at their venue as well, and hope that will happen too, as all have molds and they can be reproduced.
I also have a new book available on this site that includes photos of each of the sculptures, plus stories about each of the twenty-one subjects, links to websites related to them and their work, a list of books that I have read and loved about these amazing humanitarians, and my favorite quotes by them. The book tells the story of my journey in a simple way. It is a book that children, teachers, and adults can all appreciate. When my sculpture series is completed, any additional profits from sales of the book will be donated to the organizations founded by these people
I feel blessed to have had this opportunity to create the sculptures. I hope you will consider reading more about these lives, and going to the websites listed with each photo in the gallery to learn more about them all.
Wishing you all the very best,