If any of your New Year’s resolutions include creative and artistic pursuits, you’ll find a welcome companion in Martha Jane Petersen’s Imaging My Inner Fire: Finding My Path Through Creating Art. In this memoir Petersen details her journey from Presbyterian minister to sharing ministry through improvisational and artistic quilt-making. Her pursuit of art as a calling, despite its challenge to her identity as a writer and minister of the word, is inspirational for anyone feeling pulled to devote more of their life to artistic creation.
The memoir follows Petersen’s path from creating her first art quilt in her sixties, to having exhibits devoted to her work, to advocating for artistic expression within seminaries, churches, and retreat centers. Interwoven through this journey are glimpses further back into Petersen’s past, as she makes sense of how her various roles (including nurse, mother, wife, missionary, writer, and minister) have led to her current path. In detailing her struggle to justify and devote herself to her latest passion, Petersen challenges the expectation in our culture that individuals should follow a singular career path focused on a narrow definition of success. As someone with shifting passions and pursuits myself, I resonated with Petersen’s expressions of self-doubt amidst this cultural conditioning. I appreciated her ultimate faith that she was following important impulses within herself, despite concerns about her ability and where this new course might lead.
The ultimate answers to Petersen’s questions appear in the most dazzling parts of the book, in the vibrant photographs of the quilts themselves. The quilts’ artistry and inspiration come alive in full color, supported by Petersen’s descriptions of the emotional and artistic journey undertaken for each quilt. In words and images, Imaging My Inner Fire makes a convincing case for following one’s intuitive and creative impulses, as Petersen articulates the personal, spiritual, and communal benefits. I, for one, am thankful for this nudge and ready to get my own creative juices flowing again.