"Work is love made visible." - Rumi
I've been doing art projects that have been on my mind for years, including painting this statue from Philippa Bowers, which was part of a Goddess fountain when I had my cafe back in the 90s. About two foot tall, glazed in a matt green, cradling a large vibrant purple amethyst cluster, We named her Hypatia after the greek mathematician, who was killed by having her flesh flayed with oyster shells.
We would add a few drops of bleach each week to the fountain water, to keep down bacteria. After a dozen years, bleach deposit both built up and began to decay parts of her face and body, as well as loosening the crystals in her belly. After I closed Herland, Hypatia came to live in my garden, along with an assortment of other broken nosed and gently damaged goddesses.
Being flayed was a feeling I related to, and during those dozen years I got over a dozen tattoos.
Much of this was a reclaiming of my body, my beliefs, and my standards of beauty. A way to be comfortable in my skin. Everyone has scars on the inside - mine are on the outside, and they are pretty, colorful, and make for good stories.
Now approaching 50, I'm experiencing a new body image issue, that of becoming the crone, the hag, the elder. What does it mean to age gracefully? What does it mean to express my authentic self? I am questioning dying my hair, working to accept my buddha belly (now I know why it's called "middle" age), while pondering the delight in creases, folds, and wrinkles.
So I decided to paint Hypatia, to reclaim her as a symbol of my croning. Her hair is silver white, with a crown of pearls and roses. I will begin detailing more of her face and body next. I'm also painting a wooden stand to a marble table that she might sit on, and a ceramic cat from my daughter's garden. I like working like this, on a few projects at once, since as the paint is drying on one thing I can paint another one.
As I painted her white hair, fine wrinkles, smile lines, tattoos, and scars, I thought of Ani DFranco's line, "I got highways for stretch marks, see where I've grown". I think about all the ways to love a body that is half a century old, the ways to treat myself with tenderness and respect. Just like my old car, this body needs more regular tunings, more quality fuel, and more lubricant.
How will you re-create yourself today?