Ancestresses and Wise Women
May 5 - June 18, 2011
The sculptures began with my paternal great grandmother Emma, who shed an alcoholic husband, raised her two daughters and sent them to college. She built a successful dairy form the ground up, bucked community sentiment by hiring a black man as her manager and showed me that a woman can be ambitious and change her life for the better. I have sculptures of each of my grandmothers, my great Aunt and my mother. I also created sculptures of older friends, such as Clyde Connell, a Louisiana sculptor, Gloria Steinem creator of MS. Magazine, Judy Chicago, who helped bring women’s accomplishments back into the historical record, and Jean Shinoda Bolen. Jean led a women’s wisdom retreat at Feathered Pipe Ranch, which I attended right after weaning my last child I was also influenced by Anais Nin, who wrote the lyrical prose from a woman’s experience. And lastly by Marion Woodman, a Jungian analyst, whose writings inspired my first installation, entitled Chrysalis.
In this series of sculptures, the chrysalis forms of my past work became receptacles of the wisdom and experiences which my female elders, friends and mentors have shared with me. In each of these sculptures symbols of their lives, their personalities and their spirits are woven around the central wooden core and winding steel rod. Text of their lessons, quotes or lyrics are incorporated into the sculptures.
The concept of the central core was influenced by Judy Chicago who talked about its use as a symbol of the central definition of being a woman. It also references the ancient Greek sculpture form of the Kore, that are the immortal reminders of the virtues of the deceased, and since these cores were originally fence posts they help create the boundary of the installation. This is turn references woman’s circles, the circles of support groups and consciousness raising gatherings. The sculptures are just a bit larger than human scale. They provide a somewhat protective, overseeing presence for viewers in the circle and for the Conversations Among Women held within the installation.
Honoring women who have mentored me and creating gatherings in which women can mentor each other- that was the vision that lead me to create the sculptural installation Ancestresses and Wise Women and the accompanying workshop Conversations Among Women. I agree with those who believe art should be of some use to the world, have some meaning or make a difference. The combination of installation and conversation allows me to meld my artistic and activist natures. Building community and making connections is particularly important at this time in the world. The viewers who have stood within the circle of my sculptures and the woman who have shared the conversations have experienced history, collective wisdom, new perspectives and support for action.
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