A DVD produced by Victoria Christian and Ray Mikota - New Paradigm Publishing
Nearly two hours of Goddess and mystical art - sounds like a treat, and much of the DVD is just that. I do, however, have some concerns about the text that prefaces and follows the images and also with a number of the images themselves, but in a show of this length I would have been surprised (and worried) if I had loved everything.
I was slightly frustrated that no image titles are given so tried to hunt them down by looking at artists' websites, as given in the credits - but quite a few of the sites have already disappeared which probably tells us much about the difficulties faced by artists.
I watched the DVD through several times and found it very helpful in trying to clarify my own taste and and understand better the problems faced by artists who try to portray the divine. Just how do you go about representing the ineffable, how do you picture deity while avoiding sentimentality?
I’ve always been fascinated by religious art and so found myself trying to draw parallels between what was produced in, for example, the early Renaissance, and what is appearing today and heralded as a “new paradigm” by many. I've been told that much early religious art was utilised to teach as well as to uplift. Imagine being an illiterate field hand in the Middle Ages. Much of the year everything you saw would quite literally be the colour of mud, with the obligatory church on Sunday offering visions of possibility, of a better, more colourful and beautiful world to come. The art must have seemed like a miracle and the lessons, therefore, hard to resist. But in our culture we're bombarded with colour and images (although many are by no means beautiful) and have many other sources of information about spiritual matters. Yet some of the pictures I saw on the DVD seemed to me to want to teach, to tell me what to think and I found myself particularly resistant to those images which seem strongly articulated to New Age beliefs and which, interestingly, seemed also to be the most didactic. I don't want to ascend into the light in the company of some weird looking angel, alien or ascended "master" of indeterminate gender, thank you very much. Rejecting the world in this way is, to me, an insult to the beautiful world that Goddess makes and renews daily.
Eventually I concluded that spiritual art needs, perhaps, to be more subtle today. For me it works best when it appears simple (and often the simple is the most difficut to achieve). I'm most impressed and uplifted when I see an image of landscape, nature or the human form and the mythos somehow comes through so that I feel I'm in the presence of the sacred.
Perhaps I'm being a little unfair, because artists also reflect back to us our own concerns and filter the very idea and vision of Goddess in our world. Some of the images I was least comfortable with were the "sacred sex" type, heterosexual imagery which suggests that it's only necessary to plug in the penis to achieve heavenly bliss and keep the universe turning, an idea I hoped we'd dealt with in the 70s and 80s (and am here trying desperately to avoid a pun about the second coming). We live in a hypersexualised culture and dealing with sexuality in the context of sacred art is incredibly difficult when we all bring so much baggage with us - I hardly know where to start to try to deal with these issues.
It would be hard for me to choose a favourite artist from the many presented in the DVD but if I had to it would be Claudia Connelly (there's an example pictured above), who is clearly very much influenced by the work of Botticelli and whose work features rich colour and pensively beautiful figures.
There is a great deal to enjoy here, and I'm only sorry I can't show you pictures of them all: Suzanne Deveuve’s Bear Mother, Theresa Sharrar’s joyful dancing women. I liked Victoria Christian’s own “Destination Sun” (left) – the freewheeling spirit and lovely rounded, feminine shapes of the hills. The beautiful use of light and shade in Melissa Harris’s work – I loved “Into the Light” and how it shows the colours in shadows. Hrana Janto, as well, of course – her work is always beautifully executed and often surprises – Sarasvati for its sheer beauty, for example.
I enjoyed, too, the nobility and beauty of David Joaquin’s portraits (right) – here, as in the best of these works, the idea, the feeling of Goddess, of closeness to spirit simply comes thorough in the work and requires few, if any, heavenly devices to be sacred.
I had mixed feelings about the works by Atmara Rebecca Cloe – I loved the raptor painting “Mother Earth/Father Sky” and “The Forest Path” (see left) which leads the eye, and the body in a longing to travel further, to follow those butterflies and see where it all leads … but liked others less. And Jonathan Weber’s Magdalen is simply - and somehow sadly - beautiful. I can't find his website to tell you more about this image, unfortunately. I liked, too, Mariela de la Paz’ wonderful use of colour and Cher Lyn’s green and landscape goddesses.
But my biggest problem is with some of the text that precedes and follows the images. For example, in the preface, we have "As a result, the feminine face of God has been hidden from view ...." and "... union between the masculine and feminine, God/Goddess ...". I cannot relate to "the feminine face of God" in the first extract, nor the fact that "masculine" and "God" are both privileged in the second extract. To me, Goddess is not the "feminine face of God", but sufficient unto herself, needing no masculine power or God-granted legitimacy to uphold her rightful place as Creatrix. It didn't spoil the whole experience for me, but put me in somewhat the wrong frame of mind to view and enjoy some of the many beautiful images that followed.
©2009, Geraldine Charles
There's more information and a link to buy the DVD at Victoria Christian's website, and also an article by Victoria Christian about the DVD and accompanying book in the Summer 2009 Goddess Pages.