As rivers have meant so much to me recently, I decided to create a River Goddess. I liked the idea of making an offering to the river in the way that the Celts used to sacrifice valued objects, or how in some Hindu festivals a goddess is given to the waters. My idea was to paint a goddess and set her adrift on a local river. For me, it would symbolize returning something to water, the source, and a letting go to launch a new phase in my life.
I bought an old length of scaffolding board from the Wood Recycling Store and lugged it home. After sanding it down ready for painting, I decided I needed some reference material for the arms so I lay down and Kevin took my photograph. I was still in my “blue” phase then – which has now passed – so I painted her blue and named her “Moana” which means ocean blue or the sea in Polynesian. I thought she looked a bit polynesian. She wasn’t intended for the ocean though, just the river.
After painting my Goddess, I realized that I’d probably been inspired – subconsciously – by a number of paintings and works of art. Here are a few that I think may have been in the back of my mind: Picasso’s Les Demoiselles D’Avignon – I may just have just been inspired by Oceanic art as Picasso quite possibly was; Klimt’s The Kiss – I like the awkwardness of the figures and how they lie close to the top edge; Edvard Munch’s Madonna; Ophelia by John Everett Millais – I like the details of flowers and tried to indicate some water plants on my painting; Ana Mendieta’s Silueta earth art has always interested me; a beautiful, haunting photograph from the film Women without Men by Shirin Neshat captures my imagination and an underwater sculpture, Alluvia by Jason De Caires Taylor in the River Stour, Canterbury is something I must go and see. Finally, I love the work of Ahmad Nadalian who has made many ritual offerings to rivers. Below is his Anahita, Goddess of the waters – fertility, healing and wisdom. But there must be others….Gauguin perhaps?
After several trips looking for the appropriate river site, we chose a small section of the River Cuckmere where it was shallow and flowing gently. There I gave her to the water and we watched her slip into the flow like a piece of sky. Kevin took a video while I ran along the bank to bring her out further downstream.
Odd, clumsy, crazy project but fun to do. Moana’s now propped up in the kitchen like a totem pole, all 5ft of her. Perhaps I’ll find a home for her somewhere, or one day release her forever and see where she ends up!
A day in Kathmandu. We stumbled upon Indrajatra, a festival to celebrate Indra, the Hindu god of Heaven and Rainfall. At this time a fearsome face of Shiva, the deity Bhairab, is displayed. It is also an occasion when the Kumari or “Living Goddess” comes out from her house and leads a procession around Durbar Square. Kumaris are pre-pubescent girls chosen and worshipped as “Living Goddesses”. The chosen girls need to have ‘thirty-two perfections’ of a goddess including a neck like a conch shell and a body like a banyan tree.
Caught up in the throng of people, we surged back and forth with our cameras trying to see the young girl as she was lifted into a palanquin. Crowds swamped the temples, reds, pinks, blues. Vegetable stalls still traded with neat rows of vegetables, people appeared at windows, waiting expectantly, watching the frenzied dancing of a man with a ceremonial pole in front of the ungainly palanquin. I craned my neck to survey the erotic carvings beneath the temple roofs and took photos: three women in red with a young boy and a Seto Bhairab mask. The predominant colour was red, everywhere, red against red brick temples.
I have recently discovered the lovely work of Iranian environmental artist, Ahmad Nadalian. He carves stones with fish, other creatures and goddess-like images associated with rivers and the sea around the world. He carries out rituals of returning his carved fish rocks to rivers to raise awareness of pollution. In his words:
I was in search of my lost paradise. I wished to spend time surrounded by nature and living with nature. Upon my return to the land of my forefather I found that my paradise no longer existed. The wellspring was polluted and river no longer had fish. The rivers are sown and the meadows are planted with villas.… I have created hundreds goddesses and fish on the stones of the river and have dedicated them to nature. I wanted to build his own paradise. I liked to believe that these fish are alive, and were swimming against the tides… they are metaphors for nature and the life of living creatures who endure pain, suffering, and are destroyed by the evils of our time.
I have taken refuge in the deep ravines where I can overcome evil. There is a temple where I am at peace to worship water. I am not tired. I am determined as ever to build my paradise.
Words to ponder on. I too want a paradise, a beautiful natural place in which to dream, to take refuge. And I need to dream. Nadalian’s Rock of Fairies done in France captures my imagination the most. See the photo above.
I need nature, earth, leaves, grass, rock, water. And I sense a return of my interest in goddess imagery. I wanted to find and connect with some rocks somewhere. I like the idea of creating with natural materials that are present wherever I happen to be – beneath my feet; to make a small gesture in nature that arises from and belongs to the place.
I visited the nearby Blackrock beach to look at the cliffs, the sea-sculpted chalk shore. I found myself doodling in some patches of sand,… moulding.. a Sand Goddess figure that the tide will return to the sea!
I’ve just had a replenishing trip to Wales staying at Cae Mabon eco-retreat. It is a place to dream, indeed, to reconnect with oneself and nature. I love the wonderful round cob buildings, the rushing river, the peace; the moss covered hillside and lichen-loaded trees; the fires each night beneath the moon shrouded in its “winter halo”…
Someone had carved a beautiful woman in a tree beside the river; she holds a heart above her head… a River Goddess?
Kevin and I spent some special time there in nature – pottering about the river and woods. I even found a lichened rock to scribble on :)
I received my Amharic translation yesterday, I felt so pleased, it was as good as I’d hoped. The words translate as “Blue Female God”. I know that this art piece isn’t similar to the ancient Ethiopian Orthodox art that I like so much, but it gives my work a connection of a sort. (I was going to visit Ethiopia a few years ago with my boyfriend, but our passports went missing while applying for visas so we never made it. I’d still love to go…..one day…)
Anyway, here’s a photo of the script and my finished “Blue Goddess”. I have another piece of scaffolding board ready to sand down and work on. I think that I may keep to a similar theme.
The “goddess” theme has returned again. I’ve been working on a “Blue Goddess” which is painted in acrylics on a piece of wood. I visited the Brighton & Hove Wood Recycling Project hoping to find a good piece of driftwood. I liked the idea of the wood having ‘come from the sea’, it makes me think of shipwrecks, figureheads etc. I really enjoyed rummaging through their wood collection and found a suitable driftwood piece, but it was a bit expensive for my initial experiment. I finally decided on a cheap piece of scaffolding board, liking the fact that it was cracked and had knots. Back home I sanded this down ready to paint.
I kept having an image in my mind of a face that I can only trace to Chagall’s paintings or rather, the women in his paintings. I’ve been inspired by other things too: Fayum Mummy portraits — because they’re ancient and painted on wood panels; icons; blue buddhas; blue ‘durgas’ and lots of other blue things. The wooden statue featured in the book “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd also came to mind, as it was bestowed with sanctity.
My Blue Goddess is not yet complete. I want to inscribe it at the bottom with the words “Blue Goddess” written in Amharic. I have no real reason for choosing Amharic other than I like the script and Ethiopian religious art. I’m hoping to hear back from someone with a written translation. If you can help with it let me know!
This is what it looks like so far – with a manipulated digital version on the right!
I have been looking back over my inspirations and the different phases I’ve been through in the past few years as far as my creativity is concerned. Recently I’ve felt like doing a self portrait image for a new start as I’ve seen similar sketches on other peoples’ blogs. I thought that if I did a self portrait, it may just be an outline with nothing inside it. This immediately reminds me of when I was in a training session many years ago with the brighton organisation, ‘Carousel’, that does creative work with people with learning disabilities. It was an art therapy session and we were told to do symbolic images of how we see ourselves using imagery, words or whatever else we fanced. I knew exactly what I wanted to do, an outline representing myself with nothing inside it but lots of colours and ‘life’ on the outside. It was unlike anyone elses.
I returned to this simple image when going through what I like to think of as my ‘goddess’ phase. I was initially inspired by an image Rainbow Bodhisattva by the artist Vijali Hamilton which she did on a cave wall in Show Terdrom, Tibet. In her words:
Shoto Terdrom is a place where Buddhist nuns live as hermits in one of Tibet’s most beautiful and sacred places. In a vacant cave, I carved and painted the Rainbow Bodhisattva, an androgynous figure filled with prisms of color, seated in the lotus posture. Her/his legs were molded from the red clay of the cave floor. Neither a Buddha nor a Kuan Yin, this is an energy body, symbolizing the underlying energy connecting everything, the level at which our inner space merges with the space around us.
Her work is amazing, check out her website here. I’ve always liked prehistoric cave art as well and venus figurines, so it wasn’t much of a jump to becoming interested in the ‘goddess myth’.
I read Anne Baring’s ‘The Myth of the Goddess’ and other related material and took note of women ‘goddess’ artists. I think that I was also inspired by statuetes of the Cretan Snake Goddess that I’d seen in museums on Crete. But my image morphed into a ‘buddess’ and from there into an epiphanic, outlined figure, sometimes dancing, sometimes an angel at one with a moon or other planet. It’s an empty simple figure but its whole.I don’t think it’s good art, but it’s what happened/s, it’s just purely work from inside myself, done in my own basic way.