Cymbeline: The Fiery Giver of Life

Cymbeline: The Fiery Giver of Life

Cymbeline: The Fiery Giver of Life

Deborah O’Keeffe, 2016

Mosaic paper collage on wood with polyurethane finish.
Mandala triptych 72″ wide x 80″ high, overall.


You start in the center. The collaged mandala triptych, Cymbeline, is the long answer to that simple-enough conception.

In the case of Cymbeline the center is off-center, a little low, a little to the left, a little unround. The process of working out from a central point provides the creator of the mandala–any mandala–the experience of many mandalas as the piece, in its multiple stages of wholeness, grows more complex. To create a mandala is to participate in a way of natural growth, observed in the patterns of atoms, cells, trees, rocks, sound, cities, planets, solar systems, physical forces, and much more. Things radiate.

Cymbeline incorporates thousands of small pieces of paper–bits and strips handcut from a variety of papers, mostly recycled, including old art calendars, magazines, books, art-auction catalogues, and music. More than eighty rings radiate from its small, dark, less-than-an-inch-in-diameter heart. Every piece of paper in these rings, as well as in its center, has been cut by hand with scissors, thus preserving the slight natural variation of similar pieces not delivered by a shredder or paper cutter. The mandala rings include papers cut from outdated calendars of antique maps, African textiles, medieval art, and Georgia O’Keeffe (no relation to the artist) florals. Papers from discarded books in German and English also appear, along with interesting end papers (red and black, about 21 inches from the center), and strips from old sheet music. About 19 inches from the center, a wide ring of asemic (“without meaning”) writing spontaneously penned by the artist contrasts with adjacent dark bands. While certain of the primitive-looking characters seem to repeat, they have no assigned or consistent meaning; attempts to translate that “text” will prove futile.

In the ninth band from the center the viewer may find words (read clockwise, from the top of the circle) from the prologue of an unpublished novel by the artist.

There is no end not beginning.
Always beginning in the end.

Great now, the thin, bright note
Breaking the heart of the sky.
It is the beginning of the song of the eye;
The eye flies.
The air!
And music of the curved, hot light
Bursting into wings.

The mandala encompasses a universe of mystery and meaning. In particular, Cymbeline (Celtic/Gaelic, “sun lord”) is a world created through a marriage of passion and patience. Although people frequently comment on the artist’s patience for meticulous detail, they are less apt to note the passion–indeed, the impatience with what exists–that presses her to continually work at the edge of what is coming into being, passion that energizes the long process of realizing a work. Cymbeline gathers art, music, literature, nature and, surprisingly, a bit of intuitive geometry and physics, into its sphere. “It is more than I know,” says O’Keeffe.


“Mandala: Gran Cirque”

"Mandala:  Gran Cirque" by ameliamandala
“Mandala: Gran Cirque”, a photo by ameliamandala on Flickr.

Mandala, 44″ diameter, paper collage, created by Deborah Norsworthy for March 2010 exhibit “6 @ 549,” at Gallery 549, Lafayette, Louisiana. Now held in private collection.



“Benedictus.” 7″x9″ (approx.) mandala. Paper collage on vinyl record, set on collaged cedar, with text: “Wild grasses hold you in their arms; the trees sing over your sleep.” $75.00. SOLD


Shortly after my partner, Steve O’Keefe, and I moved to Staunton, Virginia, in May, 2010, we discovered an abandoned cemetery behind a campus of old institutional brick buildings that once served as a state prison.  The graves, set in straight rows, are each marked with upright concrete slabs.  Over time the headstones have assumed various angles of repose, and are textured with moss and erosion.  Remarkably they carry no other distinguishing symbol–not a name, not a number.  

Although I would probably not have wished to associate with any of these souls in life, I nonetheless felt a “nagging compassion” for them in their oblivion.  Several years ago, in an exchange of e-mails with a friend, I wrote, “It is interesting and mysterious to me, even strange, that we seem to have duties to the dead, and that in performing them something in ourselves may be completed and put at rest.”

Recently I returned to the cemetery with my friend, Lisa Ayres, a Louisiana artist, and we photographed the site.  This small mandala, Benedictus, incorporates pieces of my photo of a section of the burial ground.  The artwork embodies my consideration of human beings anonymously buried, as was Mozart, and the constancy of nature, in particular the trees standing over the forgotten ones in their rest.  

Photo of headstones taken November, 2010, Staunton, Virginia.



Upcoming Shows and Exhibits

“GigaLuna” (“Giga” is Italian for “jig.”)  12″ x 8″ altered book, wallpiece.  Paper collage applied to discarded books, finished with polyurethane varnish.  Hanger fixed on back.  $185.00.


For a complete, up-to-date listing of my show schedule, click on the page entry “F. Upcoming Shows and Exhibits.”  

“The Gracious Circle.” Exhibit of mandalas in the Side Gallery of the Jung Center, Houston, Texas, January 5 – 29, 2011. Opening reception Saturday, January 8, 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. Jung Center, 5200 Montrose Blvd., Houston, TX 77006.; 713-524-8253.

American Craft Council 2011 Baltimore Show, AltCraft Section.  February 24 – 27, 2011, Baltimore, Maryland.  For more information visit:  

Virginia Festival of the Book, Annual Vendors Book Fair.  Saturday, March 19, 2011, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Omni Charlottesville Hotel Atrium and Meeting Rooms, 235 W. Main St., Downtown Mall, Charlottesville, VA 22902.  For more information visit

Group show at Gallery 549, Lafayette, Louisiana. April 2011. 549 Jefferson Street, Lafayette, Louisiana. Open weekdays, 1:00 – 4:00 p.m., by appointment, and monthly during Second Saturday Artwalk (second Saturday of each month, from 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.) For more information, and precise gallery hours, call 337-593-0796.

United Bank Bloomin’ Wine Fest, Winchester, Virginia, April 15, 16, 2011.

Flint Art Fair, Flint, Michigan.  June 11, 12, 2011.  Presented by the Friends of Modern Art at the Flint Institute of Art.

Wyandotte Street Art Fair, July 13-16 (Wed – Sat), 2011, 10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. daily near intersection of Biddle and Maple Avenues, Wyandotte, Michigan.  For more information visit

16th Annual Crafts at the Cathedral, New York City.  December 2-4, 2011.  Sponsored by the Congregation of St. Saviour, The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Ave., New York, NY.

“Golden Girls” (mandala). 13″ diameter. Paper collage on substrate of assembled compact discs, finished with polyurethane varnish. Hanger fixed on back. SOLD

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