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"Shedding the Old: Doll-Making as a Metaphor for Change and Transformation" VAP talk this week....
Recently, I gave a talk about my work as part of the Visiting Artist Program at the Torpedo Factory. This blog post touches on some of the themes of that talk.
I talked about Selina Trieff, one of my early influences, a painter with whom I studied at the National Academy of Design in NYC. Inventive, intensely creative and with a huge sense of humor. she helped me get through my art therapy training at NYU, many years ago.
And I mentioned Meinrad Craighead, another influence, former nun, mystical painter. A master at depicting the "feminine face of God."
I shared some of my previous work, including the top, "Angel with Red Halo," 36 x 96, mixed media painting. Here I am also including a sculptural work "Family Connections" that I didn't share as part of the presentation.
I talked about influences on my art, especially images of shedding skin. These images are from the story of Prince Lindworm, a lesser known Brothers Grimm story. In it, the Lindworm, born first to a barren queen who is given a rose to eat by an old crone, asks for every bride that his twin human brother tries to marry. The lowly shepherd girl is the first who is able to outwit the Lindworm, with the help of the same crone who gave the queen the rose.
The crone tells the girl to wear ten shifts and then to ask the Lindworm to shed a layer of skin for each of the shifts that she sheds. Once the Lindworm is reduced to a "writhing mass of flesh" she is to whip him with whips dipped in lye (!), then bathe him in sweet, mild milk and then hold him close in her arms. The maiden follows these instructions and is rewarded with a lovely prince, "a quicksilver prince, as handsome as the grass is green."
Psychologist Donald Kalshed describes this story as representing, the union of opposite sides of the self, dark and light, and a place where good and evil are made whole. Powerful stuff.
Here is "Rhea: Shedding the Old," one of my dolls that most connects to this Brothers Grimm story. I also mentioned that as a child, I heard the Brothers Grimm stories each night as bedtime tales. My German mother used to read them to me and my sisters. They were the original, often quite gory stories, not the Disnified versions.
And I shared some of the images of "Mary Miseracordia", in Italy, or "Schutzenmantelmadonna" in Germany. I'm not Catholic but ever since I saw this image I was very drawn to it. Here, Mary is seen as a protector, with followers under her cloak. Sometimes it is the saints, or it could be members of a particular town. Instead of shedding, here she is donning another layer in order to protect her followers.
Below are some of my dolls that connect with this theme.
And I shared the process of constructing Tumnus, which I shared here in a previous blog post. Tumnus too relates to the theme of shedding skin. He has an image of a version of Rhea: Shedding the Old on the back of his cloak. And there are various symbols on his body that have to do with change and transformation, such as the trees on his belly, one from each of the seasons.
Maybe some day I should write this up more, perhaps in an article format? For now, this blog post is a teaser that shows some of the themes that come up in my work, especially the central theme of shedding skin as a metaphor for change.
Below is a gallery of photos depicting the process that's been going on over the past month or so with Tumnus and his cape.
The first few photos are of my artist friend and former costume designer, Susan Sherwin, helping me to design his cape. Then I show details of the medallions of the images that were added to the cape, with three large medallions (sacred cave of collected tears, the healing of those in need of healing with distilled water from the sacred cave and Rhea shedding her skin and having "neurological tangles" removed to be used for fertilizer. Along the collar of the cape are the various pools in which the tears are purified.) Toward the end, you see another artist friend, wet felter extraordinaire, Elise Miller, helping me to make a hat for Tumnus, not yet completed. And at the end, you can see the embroidered details that I added to the cape.
I've been making dolls for about ten years now. I believe that dolls serve as representations and reminders of the best part of ourselves. I am excited to share with you here my learnings about new methods and techniques for doll making and healing. So glad you are here!