Archive for the ‘Paula Este Gallery’ Category

We’re now at day three of my experiment about whether knowing more about a piece of art is helpful or detrimental. Now I get to share all the stuff I was thinking about when I started this series of blog posts.

This painting is part of a series of abstract landscape paintings, lovingly called “The Land Project”. It is one of my favorite pieces in this series and I titled it accordingly. “Simple Gifts” is the title of a Shaker hymn that was written at the Alfred Shaker Village in the mid 1800s.

If you don’t know it, here’s an old Judy Collins recording of the first verse. I think the melody will be familiar. You may also know this music from Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring.

Anyway, getting back to the point. Not only is this lovely music, with a powerful message, but it has personal meaning to me as well. For 25 years, I ran a rug hooking retreat at the Notre Dame Spiritual Center in Alfred, Maine. This is the same property that the Shakers occupied up until the early 1930s when the Brothers of Christian Education purchased the land and buildings. The land and the space feel sacred. There’s a peacefulness and quietness to the area. Although the painting isn’t directly about this particular piece of land, I hope it conveys some of the feelings embodied in the words of the hymn.

Here’s a copy of the lyrics. This was given to me several years ago by one of the brothers. He would sometimes sing this for us at dinner.

‘Tis the Gift to Be Simple

‘Tis the gift to be simpIe, ’tis the gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

‘Tis the gift to be gentIe, ’tis the gift to be fair,
‘Tis the gift to wake and breathe the morning air;
And ev’ry day to walk in the path we choose,
‘Tis the gift that we pray we may ne’er come to lose.

‘Tis the gift to be loving, ‘ tis the gift best of all,
Like a quiet rain, it blesses where it falls;
And if we have the gift, we will truly believe
‘Tis better to give than it is to receive.

When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed;
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.


So here’s the question: Is this further information helpful or not? I often wonder how much to share about a piece of art, so I’m interested in your thoughts.


Ethel Hills – “Simple Gifts” – Mixed Media Collage – 22″ x 30″, Framed Size – 28″ X 36″

“Simple Gifts” is available for purchase through Paula Estey Gallery in Newburyport, Mass. Work is currently on display at Portside Waterfront Restaurant in Salisbury, Mass.




Additional note. The land in Alfred, Maine is now owned by YCSPI, York County Shelter Programs.


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