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.

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