e*lix*ir comes into being to showcase the work of artists who find inspiration in the Bahá’í revelation and to foster an aesthetic whose key ingredient is the conviction that the mission of art is to inspire, transform, and uplift individuals and communities.
The idea for a journal of arts and letters that would showcase the work of artists who take inspiration from the Bahá'í revelation has been germinating in the minds of some of us for almost a decade. During this time, a number of artists with whom I have spoken – writers and painters – have expressed a yearning for a place where they could share their work and take up a conversation with one another, then send this work and the record of this conversation out into the world – a bright emissary of hope to other artists and art lovers on the same path who may be feeling isolated or discouraged.
Now, with one editor, one webmaster, and an editorial assistant, e*lix*ir announces itself, not with a trumpet call, but with the assertion of a simple truth: that we stand on the threshold of a new age of interconnectedness and reciprocity, an age in which fresh bonds are being forged between religions, countries, ethnicities, and races.
As we struggle to embody the spirit of our age in a new kind of art, we often feel perplexed, unsure of ourselves. What is the nature of the art we are attempting to create? Many of us conclude that we do not know. Others say we cannot know – at least not yet. We can no more describe what we are doing than a painter working in his studio in the golden light of late afternoon in Byzantium could have described what it meant to create a Christian art. All we can say is that we are on a journey towards greater understanding.
At e*lix*ir, we acknowledge that while we see clear evidence of a complex web of spiritual connections being formed worldwide, we are also keenly aware that we live and create in a world that is overwhelming secular. We lament that so much of the art produced today expresses disaffection and unease, and we find in its themes and preoccupations a note of yearning. We believe that yearning is for spirit.
e*lix*ir comes into being as a refuge for the spirit, where artists can experiment with new ways of showing forth spiritual truths. We believe in the vital relationship between art and spirit. To put it in the words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “All Art is a gift of the Holy Spirit.” We also believe that one the most fitting expressions of this gift is work devoted to praise.
Of the many gestures towards holiness we might make in this life, making art is, possibly, one of the most powerful and enduring. Its creation mirrors the beauty and ceremony of the first act of creation, a process during which darkness and chaos gave way to form and light. I believe that art-making embodies a fundamentally spiritual quest: to acquire knowledge of the self and others. For those artists who take their inspiration from the Bahá'í revelation, creating art may have the added dimension giving voice to praise of that source of all knowledge – the Creator.
At a time when art has been relegated to the margins of society and the artist so often viewed as extraneous to the process of social change – an unwelcome outsider – we assert that art is a powerful instrument of individual and social transformation. We believe the artist is uniquely, even ideally, situated to serve as an agent of change. We seek art’s engagement with community, believing that poetry, fiction, prose of all sorts, painting, and other genres of art, have an important role to play in renovating the social order by offering fresh visions of the world and how we might live in it.
We affirm, therefore, that art belongs not just in the academy or in museums, but at the heart of communities. We are interested in fostering the living arts – that is, arts that play a role in community life – because we recognize that art has the power and also the obligation to inspire, uplift, and transform individuals and communities.
So without a trumpet call, we invite those writers and visual artists who are inspired by the Bahá'í revelation to the pages of e*lix*ir, where we can learn, experiment, and grow together; where we can discern the luminous inner realities of things without denying their sometimes shadowy exteriors; where we can speak about struggle and pain at the same time we speak of transformation and healing; where we can voice our fears and doubts with all the force of the emotional authenticity that is in us, and, afterwards, issue to those in our company not a trumpet blast, but a gentle call to transformation and to praise.
Those artists among us who cling to this positive vision of social renewal in a world struggling not to sink beneath the weight of its despair, are forging a poetry of hope. Hope in the future is our conviction; faith our currency. We are journeying towards the light. We believe that art is an elixir that can change the dross of human experience from copper into gold. Let the alchemy begin.