Rebecca Campbell
Rebecca Campbell
In early winter of 1972 Rebecca Cambell, a sister of the Holy Order of MANS, visited the Frank Gallery. Later, she would express her highest admiration for Mulleian’s work, stating that she believed that the artist was on the leading edge of spiritualism in the world of art. Upon first meeting the artist and then viewing Mulleian’s exhibit, Rebecca expressed her appreciation of Mulleian’s paintings by saying, “You paint what I teach: the Inner Light.” To this the artist responded cryptically, “A kiss of light upon the whisper of the inner, while the outer sleeps”. Rebecca smiled, and without missing a beat, replied, “I see that it holds you in communion in its presence.” This mutually insightful exchange marked the beginning of a mutually influential relationship between Mulleian and Campbell.
Among Mulleian’s personal recollections of Rebecca Campbell is an impression that formed unexpectedly one day while walking with her through San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. It was in impression that had to do with the energy generated by this young woman. He describes the incident as profound, “out-of-this-world”, mystical, and it had an indelible impact on the young artist that has lasted to the present day.
Rebecca Campbell was a woman of effective action rather than conspicuous presentation. As was required as a Sister of The Holy Order of MANS, (a Pauline Christian group modeled on Roman Catholic orders) Rebecca had taken vows for life of poverty, humility, obedience, purity and service. The Holy Order of MANS was created under the mandate to work for the unity of science and Christian teachings, committing its members to a life of service to the creator through service to man. As a Sister of the Order, Rebecca dressed in an ankle-length moderately tailored navy blue habit with a white clerical collar, her hair drawn back and gathered modestly into a knot at the back of her head. Her physical demeanor was confident and direct, outgoing and energetic, with clear-eyed intensity of focus and a candid, matter-of-fact style of communication. She had about her a mysteriously disarming, uncannily positive way of expressing herself. Her thoughts and style of expression are best emblematized in a concise essay entitled Weapon of War, a written work that she presented to Mulleian shortly before their final meeting. The introduction to the piece claims anonymity, though, for various reasons, Mulleian is certain that it was written by her.
As the two made their way along the sidewalk that afternoon in the Tenderloin, deep in animated conversation, Mulleian took notice of Rebecca’s confident, unflinching pace, her upright posture and steady, rhythmic stride. She kept her eyes straight forward as she spoke, her square-heeled shoes striking the pavement in emphatic, cadenced meter, never once missing a beat as she developed her train of thought. He was also immediately aware of the scene that surrounded them, mentally juxtaposing Rebecca’s profile against a slowly passing diorama of faces, white, black, yellow and gray. He felt the surreal clash of energies embodied in the faces of the men along the way, derelicts, alcoholics, drug addicts; a steady, surreal stream of gray-faced, impoverished humanity. Against this was the energy in Rebecca’s profile, which stood out from the background in stark, stunning contrast, light radiating from the fresh glow of her skin. It was like the violent collision of two energy frequencies, or the explosive meeting of two opposing force fields. Ironically, it was as though the circumstance was meant to personify the concept of polarity, a subject that Rebecca often talked about, and one that, as it happened, would be the last they’d ever discuss. In any case, in witnessing this event, the impact was so great that Mulleian fell ill to his stomach and came very near to passing out. It was an event he never forgot.
In many of her countless visits to the artist’s studio, usually at night, the two would share their metaphysical and philosophical speculations, many of which would eventually create, along with Mulleian’s insightful visions, a haven of transcended ideas, later to be translated to his viewers in his paintings. In fact, it was during this period that Mulleian’s work The Crypt was created. Named by Rebecca, the painting evolved from their insightful discussions on the subject of the Inner Light, which both Rebecca and Mulleian embraced. Rebecca would later that year present to the Holy Order of MANS a gift, a reproduction print of one of Mulleian’s 1968 inner light paintings, in golden hues, entitled The Door Knob. The print was hung in the main office of the Holy Order’s headquarters in San Francisco.
This relationship would last, regrettably, only a year. Their last encounter would take place at Solomon’s, a popular restaurant with theater- and gallery-goers, just down the street from Union Square on Geary Street. Their subject was polarities, a theme they had returned to time and time again. “Nothing can exist without polarities.” was Mulleian’s position and, to an equal degree, Rebecca’s position as well. But on this occasion, their discussion came to an impasse, and, try as they might, they couldn’t get beyond it. In a gesture of absolute frustration, Rebecca abruptly rose from the table, gathered her coat and, without a moment’s hesitation, exited the restaurant through a side door that had always, but always, remained locked. At 1:00 AM, at the beginning of this particular day, the door offered not the slightest resistance. This would be the last the artist would see of her, except for a photograph that he received from her just a few days later. On the back of the photo was written, in her perfect cursive style, “Here’s one way of transcending words. Love, Rebecca.”
The brevity of their relationship, though regrettable in some respects as it may be, actually reinforces Mulleian’s belief that there are certain people and events that come into our lives and are intended to reveal or teach certain facts, realities and truths. These events may inform, enlighten, admonish or encourage, events that alter the way we perceive and make us aware of truths which, without the event, we might never have experienced and understood. These brief encounters with Rebecca Campbell, to this day, were among those kinds of fortuitous gifts.