Quaker Artists 3

Rachel Graf Evans

Rachel Graf Evans (b. 1990) is an American playwright, actor and singer.  Her plays include Respair, Randi & Roxanne, Pheromone and Cherished.  She is a member of the Dramatists Guild and a recipient of the 2022 David Shelton Award.  In addition, Graf Evans has served as the Resident Teaching Artist in the Alleghany Highlands Lighthouse Project.  She has also performed with the Sirens of Gotham, a barbershop quartet. 

Graf Evans comes from an old Quaker family, who emigrated from England to Philadelphia in the 1600’s.  She is a member of Westtown Meeting and worships currently at Roanoke Meeting.  As a teen, she attended Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s Catoctin Camp, participated in the Lobbying Weekends for Friends Committee on National Legislation and took part in Westtown School’s Quaker Leadership Program.  Graf Evan’s article “To the Heart of It: New Theatre & Quaker Clearness Committees” looks at a possible Friends contribution to dramaturgy.  She notes that her path as an artist was complicated by a Friendly suspicion of individualism and competitiveness.  She also observes, however, that her path was simplified by the Friendly values of welcoming the Light and experiencing community.

When the Lights Gets Loud, a play by Graf Evans, recounts the story of Lucretia Watts, a 12-year-old Quaker girl, who feels led to sing during Meeting for Worship.  It is 1890, and music is unacceptable during worship.  In response, Friends hold an “Exploratory Committee Meeting with a Concern for Discerning True Ministry Amidst Melodic Disruption in the Worship Space”.  The Exploratory Committee ends up deciding that Lucretia is rightly led.  An Exploratory Committee of Quaker children, called together by Lucretia, also gathers and supports her. 

Rachel Graf Evans is a gifted artist.  Her play When the Light Gets Loud is especially delightful.  I expect great things from her!

For more information on her work: www.rachelgrafevans.com.

Gary Sandman

October 2023

Six Degrees of Friends

I began writing columns about Quaker artists in 1983. They have been published monthly in Friends newsletters and on social media and in the two editions of my Quaker Artists book. I have now written 375 pieces, in addition to the introductory material for the books.

I have always tried to write about artists who have some connection with Friends, that is, Quakerism has meant something in their lives. Over the years, however, I have found many artists who have only a loose tie to Friends. (They may have a closer involvement, but I have not found it so far).

I have titled this piece “Six Degrees of Friends” to reflect those indirect links. But it also reflects an artist I want to share: Kevin Bacon. He is, of course, the inspiration for the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game.

Some artists have Quaker ancestors. Kevin Bacon is one. Among other artists with Quaker ancestors are Blythe Danner, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brad Pitt, Owen Wister, Zoey Deschanel, Emily Deschanel, Caleb Deschanel and Thomas Eakins. There are also people who are not known as artists but who wrote, including Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, Daniel Boone, Edward R. Murrow and Thomas Paine.

Some artists have attended Friends schools. There are many of them: Jim Broadbent, Jon Bernthal, Dan Hedaya, Adam Rauch, Fisher Stevens, Lena Dunham, Liev Schreiber, Kyra Sedgwick, Olivia Thirlby, Lee Marvin, Caleb Carr, John Dos Passos, Gore Vidal, Francine Prose, M. Scott Peck, Sonya Clark, Oteil Burbridge, Vera Wang, Ana Gasteyer and Lee Miller. There are also people who are not known as artists but who wrote, including Julian Bond and Bill Nye.

Some artists have family ties to Friends. They are David Byrne, Cheryl Tiegs, Robert Ryan, Paul Robeson and Amanda Peet.

It is fun to collect these artists in a column. And it clears the board for many artists only peripherally associated with Quakers whom I had listed in my files for many years!

Gary Sandman

September 2023

The London Quaker

The London Quaker (1688) is an engraving of a young Quaker woman.  A penciled note on the back identifies her as “Rachael of Covent Garden”.  A dreamy look on her face, she stands, hands clasped at her waist, dressed modestly, a “Quaker hood” on her head, a cloak over her left arm.  Frills decorate her sleeves, and bows ornament her shoes.  (Her costume predates the Quietist plainness that was adopted by Friends in the 18th century).  The engraving is Plate 71 in The Cryes of the City of London Drawne after the Life. Measuring about ten inches high by six inches wide, it is printed on vellum paperThe engraving was etched by John Savage; the painting upon which it is based was madeby Marcellus Laroon the Elder.

“Rachael of Covent Garden” was very likely a Friend from Westminster Meeting, the nearest Meeting to Covent Garden.  Quakers had been worshipping there since 1655, with the first Meetinghouse rented in 1666.  Gutted by bombs during the Blitz in World War Two, the current Meetinghouse was rebuilt in 1956.

The London Quaker is a charming picture.  It is also probably a faithful depiction of this Friend.  Laroon was known for his accuracy in portraits, and Savage reflected this.  Interestingly, Laroon’s style was influenced by Egbert van Heemskerk, the artist who painted the earliest pictures of Meetings for Worship.

Gary Sandman

August 2023

Peter Chapman

Peter Chapman (b. 1944) is an American woodworker. In the 1960’s, he studied architecture at Virginia Tech and then was employed by George Nakashima, a leader of the crafts movement, both of which inspired his love of wood and influenced his approach to design. In 1975 he set up his own studio in a barn on Bent Mountain in Virginia.

Chapman creates three-dimensional animal puzzles. The puzzles are interlocking and move like the animals they embody. Hidden inside them is a surprise, as below, the cat with a ball of yarn. Chapman tries to capture the spirit of each animal and to make each one unique. He has created over 100 different puzzles. Nationally known, with numerous awards for his designs, he is a member of the Southern Highlands Handcrafts Guild, the Virginia Mountain Crafts Guild and the International Wood Collectors Society.

Chapman became a conscientious objector after being drafted into the Air Force, which earned him an early discharge. After studying and trying many different religions he found Quakerism fit him the best, mainly because of its active peace and justice stand. Smiling, he says, “I like them better than anything else”. With his wife, Jenny, he worshiped with Floyd Quakers and now is with Roanoke Quakers.

I have always loved Peter Chapman’s puzzles. And I have always enjoyed his quiet humor and gentleness.

His work can be found at www.chapmanpuzzles.com.

Gary Sandman

July 2023

Anna Brinton

Anna Brinton (1887-1969) was an American administrator, teacher and writer. A dean of faculty, she was also a professor of archaeology and art history and a head of classical studies. Among her scholarly works were Maphaeus Vegius and his Thirteenth Book of the Aeneid; A Pre-Raphaelite Aeneid; and the introduction to Descensus Averno: Fourteen Woodcuts.

Brinton descended from a long line of Quakers, her grandparents the well-known Hannah and Joel Bean. She was a student at Westtown School and later a professor at Earlham College and, with her husband Howard, a co-director of Pendle Hill. In 1928 she became a minister of the Religious Society of Friends. For over thirty years, she was active with the American Friends Service Committee, serving on its board and performing postwar relief work in Germany and Japan. Brinton co-founded Pacific Yearly Meeting and worked toward the reunification of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. She was also a president of the Friends Historical Association. Her Quaker works included The Wit and Wisdom of William Bacon Evans; Toward Undiscovered Ends: Friends and Russia for 300 Years; Friends and Sacraments; and an introduction to Crisp’s A Short History of a Long Journey from Babylon to Bethel, and her editions of Penn’s No Cross, No Crown; Then & Now: Quaker Essays, Historical and Contemporary; and Quaker Profiles: Pictorial & Biographical 1750-1850. She was one of the models for Sylvia Shaw Judson’s sculpture of Mary Dyer, the Quaker martyr.

Anna Brinton was a remarkable Friend and a fine writer. I have read most of her books over the years. They are delightful, especially The Wit and Wisdom of William Bacon Evans.

Gary Sandman

June 2023

There is a Spirit in Iraq

“There is a Spirit in Iraq” is a hip hop song by Quaker musician Jon Watts. It recounts the story of Tom Fox, a Christian Peacemaker Teams member killed in the Iraq War.

Tom Fox (1951-2006) was an American musician and activist. For 20 years, he played clarinet and recorder in the United States Marine Band. After leaving the Marines, he joined the Christian Peacemaker Teams and served in Palestine and Iraq. He worked with detainees of U.S. and Iraqi forces, provided training in nonviolent intervention and human rights documentation, escorted deliveries of medicine to clinics and hospitals and supported the formation of a Muslim Peacemaker Team. In 2005 he and three other CPT members were kidnapped. The following March, Fox was found dead in a garbage dump near Baghdad. He had been executed by the Swords of Righteousness group, first probably having been tortured. Apparently, his service with the Marines was the cause of his death.

Fox began attending Langley Hill Friends Meeting while he was a Marine. He became Clerk of the Meeting, and he was active there with young Friends. Among other roles in Baltimore Yearly Meeting, he served as Youth Programs Director and a Friendly Adult Presence. He was also a cook at BYM Camp Opequon.

In 2006 I attended Baltimore Yearly Meeting Annual Session. At the Memorial Meeting for Worship, on Saturday morning, Fox was one of the Friends remembered. Young Friends spoke about Fox, then, finally, they and other Friends stood and, many of them weeping, began singing, “Lean on Me”, his favorite song.

Of his time in the Christian Peacemaker Teams, Tom Fox said, “If I am ever called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice in love of enemy, I trust that God will give me the grace to do so.”

Though not usually a fan of hip hop music, I was moved by “There is a Spirit in Iraq”. Watts’s grief, on the verge of tears, is powerful.

A link to “There is a Spirit in Iraq”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7E3fNVS3adw.

(Above is a photo of Fox with Iraqi children).

Gary Sandman

May 2023

Earth Mama

Earth Mama, a.k.a. Joyce Johnson Rouse, (b. 1954) is an American musician.  Her music ranges across several genres, tied together by her piano and her clear alto and focused on ecology, peace and justice.  Among her fourteen albums are Under the Rainbow, Blessings of the Universe, Magnificent Healing and LovingKindness.  Her songs have been used by Earth Literacy, the Paris Climate Talks, the United Nations New Songs for Peace and UNESCO and have been recorded by Maureen McGovern and Marie Osmond.  As well, “Standing on the Shoulders”, from her record Love Large, was the official theme song for the National Parks celebration in Washington DC of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.

Earth Mama discovered Friends as a teen through reading the novel The Peaceable Kingdom.  At that time, she also visited Chappaqua Meeting.  In the early 1990’s, troubled by the church she was attending, she said to herself, “I wish I could just go somewhere peaceful.”  She started worshiping at Nashville Meeting, and she and her husband Richard are members of Roanoke Meeting now.  She has been active in Quaker Earthcare Witness and has attended Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting and Association and Friends General Conference Gathering and visited Pendle Hill. 

I enjoyed Earth Mama’s beautiful, deeply felt music.  Her song “Standing on the Shoulders” is especially moving.

A quote about her early experience of Friends worship:

“Though a little nervous, I was welcomed and sat at peace in the space as I listened and observed this new experience. I felt calmed, and the quiet contrast to services of organ prelude, choir, special music, joyous hymns, rising and sitting, and reciting the Nicene Creed was immense. I was able to sit quietly without disruption and pray or absorb the energy in the room.”

And a link to “Standing on the Shoulders”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ax09Nokve4

Gary Sandman

April 2023

Stained Glass Windows of Elizabeth Fry

Four stained glass windows depict Elizabeth Fry, the English reformer.

Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845), called the “Angel of Prisons”, was instrumental in improving the conditions of prisoners, especially female inmates. Her life was spent visiting prisons to help in any way she could: providing food and clothes, establishing schools for children, teaching skills that could be used in jobs after release. She was responsible for the 1823 Gaols Act and helped pass the 1835 Prisons Act. She also worked for the homeless and against slavery and opened one of the first schools for nurses.

Fry was born into the Gurneys, an old Quaker family, and married into the Frys, another old Quaker family. Inspired by the preaching of Friends minister William Savery in 1798, she became a Plain Friend and was recorded as a minister in 1811. Stephen Grellet, another Quaker minister, persuaded her to begin her prison ministry. More than a thousand people stood in silence during her burial. Her grave is located at the Friends Burial Ground in Barking, Essex.

The “Elizabeth Fry Window” is in the north wall at St. Mark’s Church, an Anglican church, in Camberwell, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia. It was created c. 1935 by Napier and Christian Waller.

The “Noble Women Windows” in the west stair and atrium of the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral contains a panel portraying Fry. The original window was designed in 1921 by J.W. Brown but was destroyed by bombing during the Second World War. It was replaced in 1948 by a simpler version made by Carl Edwards and James Hogan.

The “Humanitarians I Window” in the north wall of the nave of the Washington National Cathedral, an Episcopalian church, displays Fry. It was produced in 1958 by Rowan and Irene Matz LeCompte.

The “Window to Womanhood” in the north wall of the nave in All Saints’ Church, an Anglican church, in Cambridge, England, has a panel showing Fry. It was constructed in 1944 by Douglas Strachan.

In addition, Elizabeth Fry is commemorated by a statue in the Old Bailey Criminal Court in London and by her image on a £5 note issued by the Bank of England. She is also shown on panels E5 and E6 in the Quaker Tapestry.

Two quotes by Rowan LeCompte:

“May all the windows work together to achieve a great visual music that will sing harmoniously with the architecture so to truly lift the heart and in every moment of daylight offer up its radiant prayer of passionate praise and gratitude.”

(Recalling that when his rose window was unveiled, a young girl danced in the colored light that poured onto the floor within the cathedral and when asked what she was doing, she said), “I’m dancing because I found the end of the rainbow.”

Stained glass windows do not show up in Friends Meetinghouses, though they do appear in Friends Churches. I prefer the plainness of our Meetinghouses. But I glory in the colors of these windows!

(Below are St. Mark’s Church, Liverpool Anglican Church, Washington National Cathedral and All Saint’s Church).

Gary Sandman

March 2023

Of Late

Norman Morrison burned himself to death in front of Secretary of Defense McNamara’s office at the Pentagon on November 2, 1965.  He did this in protest of the Vietnam War.  Morrison had been inspired by Buddhist monks, who were setting themselves on fire in Saigon.  He was a member of Stony Run Meeting in Baltimore as well as its Executive Secretary.

“Of Late” is a poem by George Starbuck about Morrison’s death.  It portrays the burning of a draft card, the burning of Morrison and the burning of Vietnamese.  It describes the media reaction to Morrison’s act.  Finally, it explores the language of Morrison’s burning and what Starbuck saw as the Quaker connection to that language.

George Starbuck (1931-1996) was an American neo-formalist poet.  Generally, he composed light, humorous verses.  A passionate opponent of the Vietnam War, however, he also wrote angry anti-war poetry.  His books included Bone Thoughts, Talkin’ B.A. Blues, Visible Ink and Poems Selected from Five Decades. He taught at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Boston University.   Among other honors, he was awarded the Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize,the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry and the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize.

I think “Of Late” is a powerful, horrific piece.  It reflects those bloody days of the Vietnam War.

While I remain convinced that Morrison’s act was wrong, I continue to be haunted by it.  

A link to George Starbuck reading “Of Late”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vytZ4fZEoEM&t=820s. For those whose links don’t deliver you to the poem directly, the reading begins at 13:40.

(Above is a photograph of the Quaker vigil held at the Pentagon on the first anniversary of Morrison’s death).

Gary Sandman

February 2023

Tracy Chevalier

Tracy Chevalier (b. 1962) is a British/American writer. Though considered a historical novelist, she explores issues with which people still struggle, like racism and sexism. Her books include The Virgin Blue, Falling Angels, Remarkable Creatures and A Single Thread.  Her best-selling work is The Girl with the Pearl Earring. She is a Trustee of the British Library Board and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Chevalier has worshiped with Friends for over 40 years. As a child, for seven summers, she attended Camp Catoctin, a Baltimore Yearly Meeting camp. Years later, on a New York City street, overwhelmed by its noise, she remembered the 15 minutes of silent worship in which the campers participated every morning. It led her back to Friends Meeting. Now a British citizen, she continues to worship at Hampstead Meeting in London. She has also appeared in a film about her visit to Pendle Hill, highlighting a new Quaker Walk there.

The Last Runaway is Chevalier’s novel about Honor Bright, an English Friend who emigrates to Ohio in 1850. Bright slowly becomes involved in the Underground Railroad. Silence (and quilts) are repeated motifs in the book. Accounts of the racist customs which Friends practiced, like the infamous Negro Pews, on which Friends of Color were forced to sit, separate from White Friends, are also included.

Tracy Chevalier is a fine writer. I loved The Last Runaway. Bright’s experience of Meeting for Worship is something I’ve rarely seen described in fiction. As well, I found the depiction of the inner life of Bright as a woman remarkable and, at times, very moving.

A quote about writing The Last Runaway and about Meeting for Worship:

“I found, too, that it is not easy to describe silence. When I sit in Meeting, I am constantly chasing away thoughts, which are made up of words. Ideally, when I manage to hold thoughts at bay, I enter into a state that I cannot describe. This is true as well when writing about silence.

“The best I can hope is that my imprecise attempt to describe silence will pique readers’ curiosity into seeking it out for themselves. It is worth quieting the mind for.”

Gary Sandman

January 2023