March 29, 2017

Doodles

After doodling with needle and thread for a bit yesterday, The Hubs and I went to play pub trivia, or Quizo as it's called in Philadelphia. Stitches and yoni seem to have stayed on my mind. My little scraps of paper from Quizo - where I typically scrawl down the questions we need to come back to and write answers to share with our team mates - are covered in stitch doodles.

March 27, 2017

Housekeeping

What do you do when you're bleary-eyed and brain-dead from virtual housekeeping? What's your antidote to the mushy head feeling that happens from too much trashing and organizing computer files, researching e-commerce options, and redesigning a business card? Apparently my counter balance to too much screen time is cutting up shirts. Who knew?
The Hubs had half a dozen "white" shirts that didn't survive the iron-rich Ohio water. Nothing to be done to remove the dingy iron stains, we've been shifting the heap of shirts from one cluttered location in the apartment to another for about a week. Just what I needed during a computer break - a satisfyingly manageable cut-up and reuse project.
The buttons are squirreled away for future use and the disassembled shirt pieces are ready to be squared and hemmed for new life as napkins and rags. 

Did you notice I mentioned e-commerce up there? Yes, this odd bird is making noise about resurrecting the website. Don't hold your breath, but behind the scenes I am tinkering with a complete website revamp now that I have some idea how I want it to function. At this point I'm thinking a gallery and a shop will be the two main components, rounded out with pages for a bio and resources. Now all I have to do is find my HTML and CSS notes (and remember what the hell they mean)... and take pictures... and have large format slides scanned.... and settle on a shopping cart provider... and turn off the computer to...

...work on this week's yoni. More shirt cutting. Yay!

March 24, 2017

Year of Yoni: Week 2

Yoni # 2 features cotton aida cloth and reclaimed decorator fabric (expired sample) of blended polyester/cotton/viscose fibers sewn to a wool felt backing. Cross stitched with cotton floss, the birth symbol is adapted from a 19th century wool slit tapestry from the Shirvan district of the eastern Caucasus.

March 22, 2017

Serendipitous Synchronicity of Symbols

I've just started to delve into the meaning of textile motifs and symbols that repeat across cultures and history. To begin, I'm relying heavily on The Birth Symbol in Traditional Women's Art from Eurasia and the Western Pacific by Max Allen, the catalog accompanying the 1981 exhibition at the Museum for Textiles in Toronto.
The symbol I've plotted in the sketch above, as well as variations on this symbol, is definitively described as a birth symbol in many scholarly texts. As such, it symbolizes the Great Goddess, creation, feminine creative power, and fertility. The diamond glyph (or lozenge) that is central to the symbol, when depicted without the limbs, is said to represent woman, vulva (yoni!), and womb.
Belarus national flag adopted 1995. Image credit: http://flagpedia.net/belarus
male fertility, heroism, power and masculinity
While walking along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway yesterday, I happened to look up at the flag of Belarus. Right there, in it's border is the birth symbol! How wild is that? Of course I had to look it up, and thus the journey down the rabbit hole of the internet begins.

The non-credited description of the flag, that is repeated across numerous webpages, refers to the hoist border as a decorative pattern of local plants and flowers, traditionally used on garments and rushnyk. Which led, of course, to a search of rushnyk (alt. spelling ruchnik). The rushnyk is a towel, with various woven patterns, used in rituals and sacred ceremonies. One source (from the book by Vol'ha Labacheuskaia "Poviaz' Chasou - Belaruski Rushnik" ("Link of Times - Belarusian Ruchnik")
Minsk, publishing house "Belarus" 2002, ISBN 985-01-0351-5) notes:
Textile figuration absorbed and preserved almost the whole arsenal of signs, elements of the language that the mankind has been using since the times of upper Paleolithic period...  With time the sacral language of patterns lost its original meaning, changed semantically, but its artistic qualities were improving from generation to generation. It has reached us in the climax of its artistic development, but as a language and means of communication it has lost its meaning and inner semantic relations.
Image credit: http://ethnicjewelsmagazine.com/belarusian-ruchnik/
I find this kind of stuff fascinating. The flag pattern, described as depicting plants and flowers, has older meaning (birth symbol and woman symbols) that has been forgotten or deliberately altered. This proves to be a common practice; new regimes, oppressors, religions, etc. incorporate the imagery and iconography of the preceding society while rewriting the meaning of the icons to support their own belief systems. For example, the birth symbol is elsewhere described as a ram's horn. The ram's horn is interpreted as a symbol of male virility, strength, heroism, power, and masculinity.  The birth symbol has been co-opted, renamed, and its meaning changed to support a patriarchal worldview.

March 20, 2017

Stretch, Checking In

Accountability time. Touching base with my 2017 intention to S T R E T C H.
The first 3 goals (mentioned here):
1. Finished the beginners yoga series. The class and instructor were wonderful. Taking things slowly, building upon lessons learned in each previous class, we each put together an individualized basic yoga toolkit. A toolkit of how to transition from one pose to the next; how to breathe;  how to adapt poses to suit our own individual strength, flexibility, and body proportions; what to do instead of the called for pose when it is beyond our current level or harmful for our particular body. And we were encouraged to ask questions at any time during and after the class. Where should I feel the stretch? Where is the weight supposed to be supported? Am I doing something wrong if my arms don't seem long enough to allow my hands to touch the mat? Confidence.

2. The Magic of Myth: End of the Quest. We're into month 3 of this year-long e-course. The content, exercises, and class discussions are right in alignment with my goal to resurrect my true artist self. It is stimulating, insightful, asks big questions, and provides tools for finding our individual answers to those questions. The instructor and community are enormously helpful and supportive. Best decision ever to take this class.

3. Well, 2 out of 3 ain't bad. Daring Greatly by Brené Brown is on the back burner. I have a shelf dedicated to library books and any books I'm currently reading. Right now this shelf isn't big enough. The books are spilling over onto the table and floor. I've inundated myself with research and library books.

Which (sort of) segues into current goals.
I started drafting this post about a month ago. This is what I wrote then:
Wrestling with the same sticking point again (still) regarding my art making: Do I need to find/conjure a community color darkroom so I may return to making photographs the way I was trained? Do I need to learn to print digitally? Am I a photographer or not? I've been here before. I don't like this unknowing. Even more, I despise not making art while trying to puzzle out how to make art. It's a self-defeating place to be. Which is all fodder for a much longer, tortured post. But I am attempting to put it backstage, away from the limelight, where it can percolate in the wings. Because the important thing, the thing I know unwaveringly, is that I need to be making art. When art is elusive for whatever reason, or when I'm stuck over some detail, the act of making helps. To engage hands and mind in creating something, anything, is my go to get out of jail card. 
One month later and the above passage feels like ancient history. The question of photography is gone, off the map, no longer plaguing me. Forcing myself to return to the abandoned goddess project expressly to engage hands and mind in creating something, anything, I started researching goddesses and creation myths across cultures. On the very first day in the library, surrounded by books tangentially connected to my search, I stumbled across reference to the yoni and was hooked. From there everything snowballed. I was finally able to get out of my own way and MAKE. 

Current S T R E T C H goals:
  1. Continue with the Year of Yoni project - includes making, researching, and fulfilling the one new piece a week self-assignment
  2. Secure an engaging part-time job that does not deter nor hamper my art practice - this is proving challenging, but I remain (thus far) persistent and hopeful
  3. Hire an accountant to help with our confusing part-year resident income taxes (Wow, that was uncanny! One of the accountants I reached out to returned my call just as I finished typing goal #3. Check this one off the list!)
  4.  Find a yoga instructor and class schedule that's a good fit for me and establish a regular practice
  5. Continue to de-clutter and downsize - make home a restful place with space for making, including room for the sewing machine to stay ready and waiting
  6. Make a muslin of the West Water Tunic

March 17, 2017

A Word (or Several) About the Yoni

"The open-legged motif, both figurative and abstract, is the dominant form in Pacific art, representing birth, death, rebirth and protection. This Micronesian Ancestor Spirit from Palau made of painted wood was placed over the ceremonial house for unmarried men, presumably to establish the presence of the Sacred Feminine in their transition from youth to marriage."
Quote and image credit: Austen, Hallie Iglehart. The Heart of the Goddess: Art, Myth and Meditations of the World's Sacred Feminine. Oakland, CA: Wingbow Press, 1990.
Yoni is a Sanskrit word meaning vulva, womb, source, and origin. The yoni is a sacred symbol of feminine creative power. The inverted triangle is one of several symbolic depictions of the yoni.
 
Feminine creative power is everywhere, in all of us. It is not exclusive to women. All creatures and all of nature have feminine as well as masculine qualities. I do not use the words feminine and masculine to distinguish between sexes or genders, rather these words are adjectives to describe a continuum of shared traits, qualities, and experiences.
 
Which neatly brings my art practice full circle. My thesis exhibition at RISD was Constructing Gender, a series of photographs with anecdotes from my childhood handwritten across their surfaces. Each photograph was "framed" with unique objects suggested by the content of the image and text. In the center of the gallery, on the floor, was a hand made rug depicting a vulva complete with doll hair fringe. The heavy-handed message being that sex, or array of x and y chromosomes, does not define gender and that our Western ideas about gender are limiting societal constructs rather than givens.

And here I am wrestling with the same message in a new way. Rather than an overt confrontation this time around, I'm focused on celebration and reverence for feminine power and am exploring this power through sacred symbols, from the prehistoric to contemporary. It feels pretty damn good to be embarking on new ground (textile work rather than photography) while remaining grounded (in the core subject matter that lights my fire). 

Glad to have you along for the ride. 

For those of you interested, Yoni #1 features hand-dyed linen reclaimed from a pair of trousers (seen here, here, and here) sewn to wool felt backing. The spirals are vintage linen embroidery thread couched with linen. The triple spiral design is based on the imagery at Newgrange, a passage-mound dated to 3,200 BCE.