Hot Springs parishioner personalizes psalms with artwork

Ann Cameron Cutri started writing personal psalms through the encouragement of a retired minister from Ohio.
Ann Cameron Cutri started writing personal psalms through the encouragement of a retired minister from Ohio.

HOT SPRINGS — Dr. Rev. Monte Canfield of Newcomerstown, Ohio, thought he was counseling someone via e-mail. A Hot Springs woman wrote on a website that she was struggling with a friend and a mother who each had cancer. In time, Canfield, a retired United Church of Christ and Moravian biblical scholar, also began writing the woman’s friend who had cancer.
Canfield encouraged the woman — Ann Cameron Cutri — to write her feelings on paper.
What Canfield read moved him in no small way given that this man spent his life’s work in Bible studies.
“I realized what a gifted writer she was,” Canfield said. “Then she began to write about lament, praise, thanksgiving and wonder — all themes in the Psalms. I love the way she documented them.”
At this writing, Cutri has authored 52 personal psalms. Each one is full of references to Scripture phrases. Her footnotes are rich in details about the context in the Bible of each passage, too. Artwork from her background in graphics arts illustrate her unique works.

Psalm 25: I Ask for Forgiveness
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Further, she has a growing audience on the website, Open Salon, a virtual community of writers and artists. She also has gotten the attention of fellow church-goers at St. John Church in Hot Springs.
What makes her so strong as a writer?
“I think it’s the ability to take feelings and emotions and inner thoughts and write them in a way that people can identify with,” Canfield said. “She doesn’t write esoteric stuff. She writes stuff that if you read one of her psalms, it appeals to you at a very visceral level.”
This isn’t Cutri’s first foray into the art and writing world. Her decision at age 19 to leave the Midwest for graphic arts work in California has rewarded her admirably. She has an extensive background of 30-plus years of involvement in exhibitions at the Arkansas Art Center, Cleveland Public Theatre, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Gallery.
But it took the encouragement of Canfield to get her to connect her interest in Scripture with her feelings and artwork.
“I felt like I was being led to do it,” Cutri said about her desire to write the personal psalms.
Writing one of these psalms isn’t an easy task. She estimates she spends two to three hours on each one.
Part of the miracle of her work may be that she weaves very dissimilar passages into a unique whole. She attributes her scriptural knowledge to the influence of the years when she was Baptist.
“In my spirituality,” Cutri said, “I know that the Lord wants a certain Scripture but in my mind I don’t understand the purpose of it or why. For my relationship with Christ, he speaks to me where I’m at. You can’t force inspiration.”
She said with a laugh that her thirst to know more about Christ has a somewhat funny consequence.
“It’s like the more you get, the more you want. He opens up your eyes … and the narrower the road gets,” Cutri said.
It is these and other experiences with an active prayer life that become the foundation of her “personalized psalms,” as Canfield calls them.
“I think she has been extremely effective,” Canfield said, “in communicating to other people what she is feeling in those psalms.”

Psalm 25: I Ask for Forgiveness
His Holiness the late
Pope John Paul II
asked for
forgiveness for past sins.
I ask as a Christian
for forgiveness for
what we continue to do.
Though like the author
of Maccabees
I feel unequal to the task,
I am striving to make
a sacrifice acceptable
to God.
For He will repay us for each of our deeds.

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