Summer solstice fell on June 20th this year, which is my birthday. I have always loved this time of year so much, not only because of celebrating my birthday but also and largely because of the long days of light and the buzz of activity from a world wide awake with bird song, ripening fruit, and the hustle and bustle of human endeavors. But it is in fact the day in which we begin our return to the darkness. This thought has rarely occurred to me, but this year at this time death seems to be prominent. The truth of the precariousness and preciousness of life has become evident – from the death of celebrity after celebrity, to the latest mass shooting in Orlando, to fires raging in some parts of the world with extreme heat, to a friend of mine dropping dead of a massive heart attack a few days before the solstice – death seems to be all around us.
The Celtic Goddess I explore this month is the perfect one to nurture our understanding of the unending connection of life and death. Olwen, Welsh Flower and Sun Goddess, rules in the three realms – the Underworld, the Earth, and the Heavens. She was known as the “White Lady of the Day” or “Flower-bringing Golden Wheel of Summer.” In the medieval story which retells her ancient and lost stories, she is the motivating force in healing a world of aggression, violence and rivalry.
Yes the human experience has long been one of suffering and pain. Yet the more we allow ourselves to feel each moment – the good and the bad – the more we can appreciate the greatest gift of the Goddess – Life. The Way of the Goddess guides us through the light and the dark on the path to balance and wholeness.
Discover the power of Olwen to help you on that path. Read my retelling of Olwen’s story in my latest post on the Feminism and Religion blog.
Life has taken me on a journey away from my studio the past few months due to the need to learn a new skill for earning money. But I had the luxury of locking myself in my studio for the whole month of January in preparation for an art show I put up at the Rio Grande chapter of the Sierra Club. I was working hard to finish the largest painting (7’x7′) I have ever done “Our Enchanted Bosque”.
The Bosque is an amazing wild spot in the heart of a mid-sized metropolitan city. Almost every major city with a river running through it has turned that riverside property into a commercial zone. Shops and restaurants line the shores of rivers around the world. Whenever I go to the Bosque since moving here in 2000 I say a prayer of gratitude for this wild spot. I bring my water bottle and a snack while I bike or walk; sit quietly or draw; and feel the power of nature. My soul opens and the problems of modern every day life recede for a moment. Almost every other activity in modern life requires consumption. The Bosque has been consumption free but that might not last.
“Our Enchanted Bosque” took me on a two year journey of pleine air painting, discovery about myself and of what I wanted to express with this painting. Read about that journey on my post from February for the Feminism and Religion blog- Click here.
I have been absent from my blog for a couple of months due to an extreme work overload. But that has eased now and I’m back. During this time I’ve only been able to keep up with my committed publishing dates for the Feminism and Religion blog. So, I’m backing up a bit here to keep you guys up to date with my work on the Celtic Goddess series. In February I published my painting and story on Arduinna.
Arduinna, Gaulish Goddess of Forests and Hunting is one of the many Celtic Goddesses who is associated with a particular region or body of water. She was worshipped in the heavily forested regions of the Ardennes, located in what is current day Belgium and Luxembourg with small portions found in France and Germany. She was also associated with the Forest of Arden in England. Her name has its roots in the Gaulish word “arduo” meaning “height”.
Arduinna as a Woodland Goddess represents our wild nature. With no tame, domesticated castle or demesne to call her own, she ran free in the forests of the Ardennes. She is the untamed spirit in us all, never tied down by the commitments of love or motherhood. But being Celtic, she was not chaste. As a free spirit, she would have enjoyed amorous liaisons when and where she chose.
Read more about Arduinna on my post at FAR.
“Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.” – Claude Monet.
Bosque Lights, oil on canvas, 11″x14″, by Judith Shaw
I love that quote by Monet, one of my art heroes. I feel its truth strongly. I am addicted to color and cannot get enough of it. Color keeps me returning to my studio to explore its intricacies day in and day out.
So it’s not surprising that I’d want to explore color theory on my website in which I offer folks free projects and advice for exploring their own creativity.
In my first of the series on color theory we look at one of the three dimensions of color, hue. After exploring the properties of hue, and the primary and secondary colors, I lead a step-by-step creation of a color wheel.
If you have ever wondered about color and its characteristics – hue, value and intensity just head on over to my site and read the whole article.
To be aware of oneself as a unique individual while at the same time being aware of the unity of oneness – the interconnectedness of all life – that is the challenge of our times.
Parts of a Whole, gouache on paper, 11″ x15″
That is the underlying intent of all of my paintings.
Seeds Emerge, oil on canvas,34″x36″
As I near the end of my self-assigned project to create a deck of Celtic Goddess cards I find that my retelling of their stories is changing. Now I am seeing a way to reclaim the power these Goddess had long ago, before the world turned and the age of Patriarchy took hold.
The Celts did not have a written language so all of their stories were passed down orally. Many of their stories and myths were first written down between the 10th – 12th century, well after Christianity and a patriarchal world view had taken hold. But the original power of many of these Goddesses and Gods can be gleamed from the written stories.
And now with only five goddesses to go to complete a deck of 30 cards, I find that I am de-patriarchalizing (a cool new term coined by Nancy Vedder-Shults, FAR member) their stories, changing up some details and giving them back their agency and power. So looks like I’ve still got a lot of work left – editing and re-writing some of the first ones I wrote.
My most recent painting and story is of Mor, Goddess of Sun and Sea. Though She is a Sun Goddess, She is mainly associated with the setting sun, thus reigning over death and rebirth also. Mor, was known to some as Queen of the Island of Women, one of the Celtic Otherworlds, characterized as a place of eternal youth, and abundance.
Read the 10th century version of Mor and my retelling of her place as an ancient and powerful Goddess on the Feminism and Religion Blog. Click here
The Kiss by Gustav Klimt
“All art is erotic,” is one of the few quotes we have from Austrian painter Gustav Klimt. Gustav Klimt is most well know for his erotic golden paintings of women. The Kiss is one of his most famous but there are others that are more erotic, such as Danae. So, is art erotic?
Yellow and Orange by Mark Rothko
That statement “All art is erotic” might be a bit extreme. After all where are the erotic elements found in the abstract expressionism of Jackson Pollack or the mystical color field paintings of Mark Rothko or for that matter the work of the Impressionists or even the masters of the Renaissance?
Looking beneath the subject matter and style of any piece of art one might find truth in Klimt’s statement. Perhaps it is the act of creating itself which stimulates the erotic in the artist.
What do you think about Klimt’s statement? Is there truth there?
Click here to read my recent post on Klimt’s life and art on my new website Creativity Beat.
You might also enjoy my post on the work and life of Monet.