This painting of an Old European goddess, based on a figure found in Anatolia, Continue reading
Wishing you all the joy of love and nurturance
by the Divine Feminine in 2014.
This image, a collage of hand-painted paper, shows the universal Divine Feminine astride the world, triumphantly welcoming us to a New Year.
This painting depicts our mother, Earth, personified as the goddess Taera. The painted marble frame around Taera symbolizes our rock planet. The wallpaper shows examples of life on land (the plant), life in the air (the bird), and life in the water (the fish). The zigzags depict a stylized river, emphasizing the importance of water to life. The overall green color refers to the essential role of photosynthesis in creating life on Earth.
As for Taera herself, her red gown symbolizes blood, the carrier of life. The flower motifs on her gown reflect a planet covered in plants. Her necklace evokes DNA, the code of all living things. The round shape of her hat represents the shape of our Earth, spinning in space.
For more work by Elaine Drew, see Meet Mago Contributor Elaine Drew.
Elaine Drew has worked as a designer, illustrator, and artist for longer than she cares to admit. She illustrated the recently published Tales in the Night Sky, a mythical introduction to star gazing. Her work is included in the college level textbook The Adobe Illustrator CS6 Wow! Book, and she writes and illustrates a critically acclaimed blog, The Daily Dreamer, under the pseudonym Carla Young. Her egg tempera and gold leaf paintings explore mythical and dream material.
Published posts from the recent:
In this painting Taera represents the earth. She mourns for the followers of the world’s three major religions, children of the same father, who are embroiled in a conflict that threatens not only the warriors and their supporters, but the earth herself. Those who fight are blind to their similarity, symbolized in this painting by their looking exactly alike except for their identifying emblems. Beneath their feet is the destruction they have wrought by their centuries of warfare, both to their own civilizations and to the ancient civilizations they have destroyed, represented by the scattered heads of early European goddesses.
In a previous post I showed my earliest attempts to depict the divine feminine. While I agree with Tolstoy that the most important thing about a work of art is that it transmit the feeling of the artist to the viewer, that is not something I can measure or control; that part of the communication is in your hands. So I’m left to talk about what can be verbalized: the mechanics of putting a painting together. In this post I’ll limit myself to one of the mechanics of getting feeling across, and that is the use of symbols.
Medieval painting has been a big influence in my work in terms of its content (religious), its technique (egg tempera, gold leaf), and its use of symbolism. In this group of paintings I combined the sorts of historiated (decorated) letters you might find in an illuminated manuscript with symbols of the particular goddess or divine process I was attempting to portray.
The interesting thing about symbols is that they can function on several different levels at once. The letter forms create a space for the deity to inhabit and also echo something about the meaning of the painting – perhaps the name of the goddess, perhaps her function.
In the painting D for Doris we see the goddess of the littoral, the place where the sea meets the land. The form of her letter, besides being her initial, reflects the spiral of the cosmos, and the shape of the d‘s ascender echoes a fish tail. The d is bounded by an area of roiling sea, the primeval soup of life. Inside the d, Doris lives in her own universe of ocean, sand, and sparkling stars; she enables life and creativity. Her skirt is made of waves whose motion is the breathing of the sea. Her shirt is decorated with plankton, and she is surrounded by her creatures. A group of clams form a scepter in one hand, a seabird sits in the other.
G for Goddess: This painting of the soul (anima) depicts our own interior divine force, the inner goddess. Bird symbolism is often associated with both the soul and the ancient goddess of life, death, and rebirth venerated in neolithic Europe. The vegetation symbolizes the life force, and the little celestial bodies on the periphery point us to an unknowable reality beyond ourselves. Circular forms point to the perfection our souls long to attain.
The Egg and I contemplates our place, as women, in the cycle of creativity. An ancient bird goddess represents our ancestral mothers from time immemorial and observes us from the very center of the “I.” She lives in us at the core of our being. Life and fertility unfold around her. The egg that “I” hold is the symbol of my potential as a person and as a woman to pass forward the gifts of our mothers.
The Portal: The life force is symbolized by the goddess appearing in both the vesica and the U. The U stands for the Uterus, the sacred place where life begins, and also for the Universe, a place of infinite potential. The goddess, surrounded by the richness and fertility of vegetation, offers life to those brave enough to accept the challenge. Her pale face hints that she rules both life and death, and that the two cannot be separated. She offers the women below a symbolic umbilical cord, and their nakedness emphasizes the vulnerability of those who accept life, in its beauty and terror.
In the late 90s, when my husband began talking about creating his own mythology, he came up with its core concepts. This would be an earth-centered mythology, and its principal goddess would be called Taera. She would represent the earth and its life. As the mythology’s illuminator, my first task was to depict this deity. In today’s post I would like to show you how the images of this goddess started to develop. In a future post I’ll show how they matured.
My first attempt, T for Taera, was inspired by illuminated manuscripts. The figure of the goddess is arranged so that her outstretched arms form the top of the initial T; her body forms its vertical stroke before spiraling into the universe that gave birth to the earth. She offers an an apple symbolizing awareness to a woman representing humanity. Surrounding the goddess are images representing life: flowers, eggs, fallopian tubes, DNA, and humans. The image was painted in watercolor and gouache, with the gold background behind Taera built up with gesso and pastiglia covered in gold leaf.
In the second image, Taera Seeds the Ocean, I am attempting to illustrate one of our goals with the Taeran mythology, which is to incorporate scientific fact. This image represents our creation myth: Taera tosses DNA into the primordial ocean, seeding the planet with life. The painting’s border incorporates the spirals of DNA, and the gold scribbles around its edges are meant to evoke the characters of an ancient, unknown language. The image was painted in egg tempera on a gessoed panel, with embellishments of gold leaf.
The third image, Dancing the Dance of Life, shows an exuberant Taera surrounded by her creatures, who dance with the joy of life. The frame around the dancers represents the forest; the sun a life-giving force. This image was painted with egg tempera on gessoed plywood.
As we worked to develop our mythology, I worked to find ways to express its meaning and values. This is an on-going process. In a future post I’ll show other iterations of this important goddess.
About 16 years ago I began working to master painting techniques that I hoped to use to express the divine feminine. The first step was to figure out which particular technique to use. My family was Russian Orthodox, and this exposed me to the beauty of traditional icons. I had worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and there saw examples of every sort of art, but the art that seemed most suited to express divinity resided in the medieval and Renaissance galleries, so I began to experiment with the techniques these early artists used. From books — especially Daniel V. Thompson’s The Practice of Tempera Painting: Materials and Methods — I learned enough to get started with egg tempera painting. This involved learning how to make glue gesso and apply it to a panel and how to make egg tempera paint by grinding pigments and tempering them with egg yolk.
I’ve chosen three paintings to show some of the different ways I’ve attempted to depict divinity. My task in these paintings was to portray the sacred quality of the Mother as well as the combined joy and pain that lies at the heart of motherhood. So, in a sense, the paintings are meant to be a tribute to our earthly mothers as well as a meditative object that gives us a window through which we can contemplate the Divine Mother. I started with a traditional model: the first painting, Theotokas and Child, is a traditional Orthodox icon. In order to understand both the techniques and the theology of icon painting I studied with the Prosopon School.
The second painting in the series is St. Anne. She is the Virgin Mary’s mother. I created this painting in order to show a mother with a female child, since it seemed to me that we women had been denied a sacred image of a mother devoted to her daughter. My personal reason for creating the image was to “give” a mother to my mother-in-law who, being adopted, had a deep longing for her birth mother. I modeled the infant on my mother-in-law’s baby picture, and I modeled St. Anne on her daughter — reversing the mother / daughter order, but keeping the family relationship. Stylistically this image is based on Renaissance models.
In the final image, Egg Mother, I present the sacred mother symbolically. All shapes in the painting are based on eggs, and the decoration is based on Ukrainian Easter eggs.