I am starting to invite people to see my goddess. Her body is hanging in the studio; three heads waiting to crown it. She is hollow with multiple rims - lips. I feel nervous; her hugeness, her ambitiousness (my ambitiousness) is evident now that she is assembled in three dimensional curvaceous bulk. No longer planes of cardboard and fabric – there is no going back. I feel embarrassed because of the “religious” element. Is it hubristic to want to make a goddess? And it has taken so long, all hand sewing. The slow, repetitive, painstakingness of the task. I am reminded of the spinning/sewing task of the sister in the 12 Ravens/6 Swans (is it significant that these are multiples of 3?) – compelled to keep silence for the duration of the task in order to succeed. Now I can try and speak but I don’t know what to say except to show.
"It is wut it is
I ain't the noing of it
I'm jus only the showing of it"
- Russell Hoban's little man in Riddley Walker
My goddess is a mass of lips. Yet she is silent (or inaudible). Voice is animation, defiance and defence. Silence, muteness, dumbness are passive, powerless. Or a terrible stubbornness. Marina Warner refers to mute Aunt Margaret in Angela Carter’s Magic Toy Shop – the great weighed necklace around her throat. When I was making my first terrible (still unfinished) Medusa doll – what cannot be said (thought) was represented by the thorny necklace choking her throat.
The active wounded hands of the patiently crafting sister are a counterpoint to the passive shut lips – the task to sew the revivivying/transforming shrouds from lacerating materials – nettle or thistle. In art therapy something made – tactility and process of making as much as finished form – expresses what cannot be said in words; known in language. I had intended that the goddess would have arms and hands but now the lips seem enough. I can’t resist the way she gently spins. I am reading (trying to) a book about Luce Irigaray. One of the gestures she says that girls make in response to the absence of the mother is to spin. Dervish girls. The female version of fort-da. My goddess is maternal – the mother I need or the mother in me?
My goddess is full and empty. I see her as benevolent and forgiving - absolutely unpedantic. She is so-o pink! She is all shades of pink from pale spring blossom, through full bloom rose or fuschia, to aging yellow/brown or even mauve.
Virgin, Mother, Crone.
She speaks silence.
She has lips like an Argus of eyes.
She is a myriad of surfaces, reflective silk, brash satin, peachy velvet: surfaces transforming from light to dark, dark to light, light on dark, dark on light.
She invites touch – at my open studio recently so many people expressed an urge to poke their fingers in the orifices. It is strangely erotic to have somebody caress a body that you have made while you watch!
Words, wounds – like the scarification on African sculptures.
Lady Oracle – what will you ask her, what will she say?
Back in May I went to such a seminar at UCL - they used to have occasional interdisciplinary meetings which were very inspiring, usually about art and literature in relation to psychoanalysis. Margot Waddell was speaking, quoting Meg Harris Williams on Bion’s definition of sculpture "meaning comes less from the structure itself than about the structure as a trap (for light?)" . I haven’t quite unravelled that but I will let it stay for now. The lecture was about how the interplay of two authentic selves (client and therapist) creates a new meaning. The cleverness of the therapist’s interpretations means nothing if they doesn’t resonate; give birth to a third thing. The primary material is memories and dreams and cultural encounters. Layers and levels of part submerged alpha elements. Do I want to make links and bring this work into “thinking”, or do I prefer it to remain in a slightly undifferentiated state: eternally plural? Cop out or stance?
What are the origins of my interest in the triple goddess?
Those paintings of Munch’s of three women on the shore: white, red, black: virgin, mother, crone. Fascination – which am I? I am drawn to stories with multiple female characters: Little Women, Sex and the City, The Robber Bridegroom – interestingly though these examples have four women characters to spread the load of female roles.
3s have always been a feature in my work: things divided into 3 or groups of 3s.
The first work I made as I stepped out of abstraction was the ambivalence doll, exploring my own history of being one of three. First the early trauma of being displaced by a new baby – the birth of my sister, and then the much later (in my third decade) trauma of being rejected in favour of a new third – the interloping other woman. Was she already there this third, waiting to displace me?
This "goddess" work was partly born from encountering a dried banksia pod; an absurd proliferation of lips!
Did my fascination link to my own incipient cronism? Where am I in the cycle of virgin, mother and crone? I have not been, will not be a mother. What has emerged and lives on from me? Recently somebody looking at my work mused aloud (too delicate to make it directly a question) whether my art works are like children to me – apparently Tracey Emin considers her sculptures to be her children. Do I have to prove even if I am childless I still have a maternal capacity? Are my sculptures child substitutes? Fairy tale instances of a barren couple shaping a child from snow or clay and wishing it into life out of absolute need to have a living third? Child to nurture or Golem – rampant protector.
I reread Freud’s Three Caskets. There is something about silence being more authentic (for a woman?!) than speech. Cordelia. I first encountered a version of the Lear story in my illustrated Grimm: The Goose Girl at the Well. The unflattering youngest daughter is banished and disguises herself in a crone's skin by daylight, peeling it off only at night to reveal her beautiful youthful self. Freud considers that the triumphant third sister has another quality besides her astonishing beauty, that is her dumbness. And he goes on to equate silence with death. The choice of the loveliest daughter becomes a wishful reversal - since he cannot escape death, man chooses to choose it.
Freud points out that "Cinderella hides so she cannot be found". Disappearing/hiding is also death.