It is said that "The most beautiful paths are often discovered only after being lost". My name is Stella Singleton-Jones, an artist and sculptor. Like many, I too was lost before discovering my own beautiful path. My divinely guided journey has been one full of twists and turns and ups and downs. Today I realize that my path, my journey was simply God's sculpting hands shaping me into the artist I am today.
My art career began with plaster in the 8th grade at John Burroughs Jr. High in Los Angeles, California. For me, there was nothing special about playing with a formless glob of plaster. However, there was something incredibly special about transforming that plaster into the image I held in my mind. I believe God placed in my path, Mr. Shapiro, my teacher. Inspired by something he saw in my work he entered my little plaster sculpture into the school’s overall art competition. Well, I won…first place at that. Little did I know how life-changing this little win would be.
The prize for first place was an internship at the renowned Otis Art Institution. For two years from 1974 to 1976, I attended after-school and Saturday courses there. Upon my graduation from John Burroughs Jr. High school, the Otis Art Institution recommended I attend a school that had, at that time, the best art department in the state…Santa Monica High School. It was there that my career turned forever into the new direction of the arts. This was a transformative time for me as I was exposed to painting, drawing, and other art forms. I discovered new perspectives and a new degree of depth and meaning I had not seen before. I was all in!
Unfortunately, my drawing instructor and I did not see eye to eye. I wanted to draw abstractly. I wanted to put on paper the images that came to my mind. This particular instructor wanted me to draw with realism, like drawing a picture. However, I wanted to create from what I felt inside not just copy what was already there. Today I recognize the images in my head as being divinely inspired. Unfortunately, at that time, I didn't recognize this gift and the ongoing turbulence dowsed my spirits and ultimately ended my career as a drawer. Despite this, I graduated from Santa Monica High School and went on to Santa Monica College to expand my interest in art. Unlike my time in high school, I put my foot down in College and created only what inspired me. This is when I discovered my niche and found that my true talents, my calling, would be expressed as an abstract sculptor of stone.
My career in stone sculpting blossomed , nicely throughout the early '80s. My achievements and the adoration that followed was wonderfully inspiring. But in a shocking twist of fate, it all came spiraling down and crashing in the late '80s. This was due to the death of my number one supporter in life and art, my brother, Derek Singleton. His unfortunate death paralyzed both my heart and my career in stone sculpting. For 20 years I completely removed myself from the world of art, never letting even my closest friends or co-workers know of my past achievements in the art world.
Life can be funny and take some rather strange paths along its journey. The next and quite unfortunate twist in my journey came on January 16, 1996. I became suddenly and extremely ill and eventually fell into a coma that lasted almost three weeks. I was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease of the brain called Spinal Meningitis. When I finally emerged from my coma, I realized my life and my world was not the same. I could not move my legs nor could I even form words to speak. For the next several years I had to undergo countless and rigorous speech and physical therapy sessions. Whenever I ventured out in public, I became ill and had to endure lots of medicines and steroids just to maintain any sense of normalcy. During this painful period, I declared “This is it!”. I decided that, except for a doctor's visit, I would never venture outside again. After informing my doctor of my decision he faced me, stared directly into my eyes, and voiced his unfiltered opinion about this decision. Shouting at me with a firm voice he said...”HOW DARE YOU GIVE UP ON LIFE!”. He explained that it was my responsibility to find a new purpose for my life. He even suggested returning to school to study physical therapy since, by now, I had so much personal experience in that area.
I was surprised and not quite sure how to handle my doctor's scolding and disappointment, but I listened, took heed, and considered his suggestion to return to school. I remembered my last course of study was in the arts. So, I got down on my knees and asked God if this was the path he wanted me to take. If so, I would give it my all. As long as God kept me able to create and inspire others to never give up on their dreams, I was committed to doing so. Just as my doctor suggested, I found a new purpose for my life. Once again, I was all in!
Following this divine guidance, I resumed my art career in 2007. Today I can honestly say, I have a life I am proud to call my own. It is full of accomplishments beyond my wildest dreams including having my stone sculpture piece, “Unity”, made a permanent part of the White House’s art collection and placed on display in the Oval Office by President Barack Obama in 2009.
It’s strange how things work out. Every aspect of my journey, the twist and turns and the ups and downs in this life can never be taken away from me. They each played a role in sculpting who I am and determining the paths that lay before me. Yes, it’s true…“The most beautiful paths are often discovered only after being lost”. Today I completely understand this concept and fully realize that only when it is dark can we fully appreciate the warmth of God’s light.
What a blessing and a forever unfolding dream come true…I am forever grateful!!!!