About the series, dea (goddess)
Most of my work is an exploration of the intersection of the sacred and the physical world. In this new body of work, I am exploring ancient goddess figures and their power to represent- or hold-–the power of the feminine divine. What makes them, or any object, sacred? Is it intention? Does it depend on the context it is in? On those viewing it? And what is the connection between art, the sacred, and healing?
I have always responded to the simple beauty and power of small prehistoric goddess figures, but it was not until a friend of mine became ill that I felt compelled to create similar forms myself. I made the first ones out of a desperate desire to create something that my friend, an artist who was a great inspiration to me, might find healing (I suppose in my magical thinking I wanted what I made to cure her, of course, and only later could really appreciate the difference between healing and curing). Just as important, creating something for her was the only way I could articulate how much she meant to me, and was a means of counter-balancing, if only in a small way, the destruction of her body by cancer.
I did not start out to make goddess figures- they just kept appearing and seemed to feel right. The figures were very simple, based on drawings and photographs I had seen of ancient goddess figurines. It was not just the forms, but the intention with which they were made and the powerful use of symbols that were particularly important to me. The figures I made contained pomegranate seeds, a sensual, ripe representation of the womb and the feminine (I did not think of their link with Persephone and the cycle of life then, but do now), as well as seeds from hollyhocks and lupine taken from places important to me. I made the figures small and smooth enough to be held in the hand and rubbed. While making them, I thought of my friend. I gave her one of the goddess figures while I kept the other.
Years after she died, I brought this sister piece with me on a trip to Katahdin, a sacred mountain in Maine, on impulse. As I hiked with the 11 other women I was with, I searched for a place to release the goddess figure in my friend’s honor, as she would have appreciated the mountain’s wild beauty. I only knew two of my companions well, so thought that I would conduct my simple ceremony alone or just with them. This made perfect sense, but it did not feel right to me. So, by the time we were hiking down the mountain, I had shyly and reluctantly followed the impulse to invite anyone who wanted to join in the ceremony to do so. Taking that risk, and letting go of control of what I thought the ceremony “should” be, led to one of the most important and moving experiences I have had.
Everyone participated, not knowing exactly what to expect. We each took a turn holding the goddess figure and, either silently or aloud, remembered and honored someone in our lives whom we loved and missed. As each person spoke, everyone else focused their full attention on the speaker with a strong, supportive energy that was palpable– we were present with one another. In fact. one person chose to participate by listening. When we lowered the figure into her mossy, womb-like crevice, I felt something heavy lift from me. I had finally let my friend go, not realizing I had been holding on so tightly; I also felt the power of what we had all shared, and the presence of grace in the experience. The risk of opening ourselves– our hearts– to others made the experience profoundly powerful. The figure provided an opportunity for us to focus thoughts and served as a vessel to hold our memories and love for the person we remembered.
I have continued to make goddess figures. They continue to draw on ancient forms and include materials and designs that have both personal and symbolic meaning. For me, they offer another way to explore art and healing, the divine and the feminine, and vessels that can help bring both into awareness. Whether they have particular meaning outside of a personal context and experience of them is still uncertain to me, but that is also part of the exploration.