Upon my introduction to the word ildsjel, a series of faces flashed before me: the ildsjeler in my own life. There was no ambiguity in locating them—they are truly the brightest lanterns and swiftly emerged as a constellation in my mind.
I knew I wanted to paint some kind of human architecture. The ildsjel was to be the foundation linking all of the individuals to each other and grounding them to the earth. After painting a configuration of people embracing in a wreath of mutual support, I made a star encircled by a band of energy. Without consciously realizing it, I had painted a compass. I had envisioned some kind of ring of energy or orbit above the ildsjel, as when a community comes together for a common cause it creates a focused flow of energy that gains momentum at a rate that surpasses our potential as individuals. As Karen O’Brien and Ann Kristin Schorre quote Ingebrigt Steen Jensen as saying, “an ildsjel must get the fire to spread” in order to get enough flow swirling around the community to draw others in.
There is a quiet legacy of ildsjeler who have been able to refocus and redirect us with their actions. Their footsteps illuminate a previously unmarked path on which the rest of us may find better footing, widen our vision, and become more aware of the impact of our actions. In creating this image, I wish to honor the fire spirits of the ildsjel, past, present, and future.