Sculpture

This is a selection that includes sculptures in wood, clay and mixed media.

For more detailed notes on a few of the pieces scroll down to the notes below.

Fertility Goddesses  - 1999

Twelve panels to be displayed  as a unit, each 31 x 31 x 5 cm.

Created while I was in Amman, Jordan. Note the shards are all authentic, ranging in age from the Nabatean to the Omayad period (c.300 BC - 700 AD). The sculptures are all "quoted" from historical originals to juxtapose ancient depictions of femininity.



Life, Liberty & The Pursuit of Happiness (1995)

This nearly life-size sculpture of wood and mixed media is inspired by the iconography of the Virgin and Child during the Middle Ages. It particularly draws on the tradition of statues where the Virgin's body formed a cupboard which, when opened, revealed Christ crucified. The child in this instance is a girl and both mother and child are naked when the cupboard is open. Also revealed are small figures on the inside of the doors.

The images to her left are positive, life affirming and those on her right are negative, images of oppression. The positive images are obvious and probably need no elucidation. The emphasis is on what should be a harmonious and mutual celebration of life by men and women: the spiritual, the sexual, the freedom to be part of the natural world (not protected from it), to thrill to life whether with or without a partner, and the joy of parenting. The negative images remind us of women raising children only to lose them to warfare, men who believe their gender gives them the right to control women; and the terrible consequences to women when they are defined as "lust incarnate" to be tamed at all costs. The woman in the bottom left panel (having been stoned by the spectators) is about to be buried under tons of rocks from a dump truck. This is the updated version of "stoning to death", a punishment in Saudi Arabia for women who are found guilty of sexual crimes, such as adultery.

The large, central figure has her feet in water, invoking ancient associations with female deities and their life-giving forces. The black garment of the woman is covered in quotations from women and men about the status of women as it is and as it should be. The intention is to confront the viewer with a recognizable, familiar archetype, but transformed. The shock, resulting from the viewer's perception of the unexpected, concentrates the mind on the subtle coercive power of the original image. The cult of the Virgin interestingly coincided with greater compassion in the church and small gains in the “rights” of women, but it is inescapable that the mother is celebrated primarily as the creator of sons, not daughters.

This sculpture has deeply moved many men and women in the Middle East where the emphasis on male offspring can be devastating in its impact on both sexes.

The pomegranate held by the mother refers to the traditional “apple” of Eve. The Christ child is often depicted holding it, a symbol that he is removing the sin that Eve brought into the world. The pomegranate with its many seeds is a pre-Christian symbol of fertility and refers us to the tangled web in all myth and religion of woman, fertility, birth, death and sin.

Inscribed on the mother's cloak, is part of the famous poem by Sojourner Truth, commenting wryly on gender prejudice, and patriarchal religion.

© Susanna Caldwell 2013