Classical Proportions/Narrow Perspective

February 1st, 2010

Available!  $900

Age of Knowledge, 1994: Women, Domesticity and Objects of Power

bronze, wood, mirror 26”h x 14”w x 9”d

I know Rae had fun making this piece.  The concept was straightforward.  She had been working for some time with the FatAn collective, preparing an anthology of works on Fat Activism.  She was never thin, though I do remember a time when we could wear the same jeans.  But she was a feminist, and outraged at the culture of artificial beauty that surrounds us.  She knew from experience that she could not lose her weight and keep her health, and who she was.

The modern image of female beauty is fairly recent, in its thinness, at least.  If you look at classical statues, the proportions of the women in them are much rounder than anything you’d see in a magazine.  So this piece is a statement of how our perspective has literally changed.  The columns (made from wedding cake decorations!)  and the pulchritudinous forms lounging at their feet represent classical beauty.  The mirror is made intentionally too thin to ever be able to see all of yourself in it, no matter how thin, and so is an analog to the internal image many women have that they are fat.

Happy Imbolc!

Caged Heat

January 28th, 2010

Maple, copper, textiles

Caged Heat is a not at all subtle political artistic statement.  For Rae, politics was personal, and spiritual, and personal.  Some of you might recognize the title from a 1974 exploitation film about women in prison.

Since Rae server her time in 1973, and was still on parole in 74, it came at a time she was a bit sensitized to some of the stereotypes in this and other shows.  The basic idea is that if you put a bunch of women together in close confinement, lots of violence and sexual abandon will result.

Rae was always a sexual being.  She was an incest survivor as well.  And a feminist.  These things are not separate, but integral parts of her and a result of her life experiences.  Caged Heat is about the oppression, including self-repression, of the sexuality of women.  The heat is the sensual, sexual, generative power of the female body.  The cage is the Burka, Habit, Wedding Dress;  it is the shaming, the peer pressure, the law;  it is myth, story,  parable, custom; it is rape, abuse, mutilation.

The story is told with textile art, 7 small vignettes in embroidery and applique:
The story of Pandora
Woman as property, passing from father to husband, represented by the wedding dress and land title.
The biblical story of Eve
The Chastity Belt
Female circumcision
Heat-to-toe clothing
The Witch-burnings

The centerpiece is a large copper, um, well, see if you can figure that out yourself.  One little surprise for folks is the mirror inside the slit.  Rae even had a good reason for making it that size.  Take the more common size of female pudenda, get the ratio to a newborn head.  Now increase it so a fully adult head could fit through.

The cabinet the pieces fit in is made of slightly spalted maple.  Closed, it looks shrine-like, open vaguely lunar.  She was making a statement about organized religion, too. But the exterior of the cabinet also has some detail, she carved parts to appear that the wood was actually woven, like a basket, with some parts coming out, perhaps unravelling.  The message overall is that the heat will not be caged.

Rae was very fond of Caged Heat.  She even requested in her funeral instructions that it be placed on her wheelchair. And so we did, with 3 live rose plants, which we later planted out back at our house.

To end, here is in Rae’s own words her artist’s statement on Caged Heat:

Caged Heat

Women have long worshipped at the shrines of our own apocalypse.  The aspects of our horsemen are: Sin, shame, control, fear, temptress, uncleanness, vassal/vessel-hood.  This shrine represents these aspects, aspects that have caged our passions and actions on conscious and sub-conscious levels our interior lives.

These subtle and not so subtle stories, myths and practices have guided our actions, interfered in our relationships and even guided the laws and morals of many of our societies. And women have fallen prey to belief in these aspects.  We believe it of our selves, of other women, of our heroines.

Sin — in the figure of Eve, causing expulsion from the Garden of Eden

Shame — because Pandora released all the sorrows on to the world

Temptress — We cannot be left alone, we cannot be trusted, we can not control our own actions or bodies

Control — Her hair, her skin, and her body must be hidden so as not to tempt or be tempted

Fear — women might judge a mans ability, demand more from him or even seek her pleasures somewhere else, and there is always the fear — that she won’t offer him the best vessel for his pleasure

Uncleanness — Women bleed, we leak milk from our breasts and fluids from between our legs…

Vassal/vessel-hood — we hold the next generation, and we must be “protected” “wedded”  “bedded”…

Women have been reclaiming and struggling for their rights for the last 100 years.  For each step forward, weighted down by these stereotypes and myths, we are dragged back. In the form of backlash groups, woman to woman sexism, legislation, younger women redefining immediate past history, the ongoing ritualization of women’s lives, the lack of equality in almost every country in the world, the ongoing economic and employment sanctions/limits placed on us, etc.  And somehow, the majority of women still assume that the balance of power is still justified, that men still know more, understand more, are generally more trustworthy then other women, and so on.

This shrine was created within ritualized processes to make a change in the world.  With each stitch I visualized a world where women where respected, where we were valued for who we are and what we did, and we had equality.  Each image was created and researched to bring to light the myths that do effect the world view within many cultures.  The shrine was created as a form coming undone, while the vulva shape was created in a size that is of an equal ration to the human head — to symbolize the birthing of new ideas in adults.

These icon images were done in simple embroidery stitches.  Stitchery is an art form long used and perfected by women, and it has a long history of encouraging revolution.  It is also my first art form, begun around the age of 5 and continuing.

Bridget: Lady of Faith Lady of Infamy

January 15th, 2010

Bridget piece open

English Oak, Mahogany, embroidery.

This piece is breathtaking, truly.  The images I’m posting here do not, cannot do it justice.   Rae worked on this for over 3 years, researching, collecting images and stories, designing the embroideries, finding the wood.

Detail, center section

Bridget: Lady of Faith Lady of Infamy is a tribute to the Irish Goddess and Saint.  It contains images from each iconography, and deftly shows how they interact and mingle. The three panels represent the goddess on the left, the Saint on the right,

and in the center, an image of the woman who was both, surrounded by the many names given to her, and symbols linked to her: Horseshoe, Acorn, Holly, ferns, a yellow flower I don’t remember the name of…  She also put a copper cauldron, in the style of her Water Cauldron, below her image in the center panel.

detail of Goddess panel

The left panel features a sacred spring, with a flame rising from the water, and an ancient Oak tree shading and sheltering it.  The pool is circled with rocks, there is grass, a small Rowan tree, the sun setting in the distance. (or is it rising?)

The right panel has the tower from St. Brigid’s Cathedral in Kildare, a celtic stone cross, and the eternal flame

tended by the Brigidine nuns, who are “unlike any other Catholic Order, for they embrace the Goddess aspect of Brighid and honor that fully.”

Detail right pane

The triptych is embroidery floss on linen, and I watched it slowly form.  I even timed Rae working on a section, calculated how long a square inch took to finish, and then extrapolated.  There are over 600 square inches of embroidered area in the piece, and it took her between 3 and 5 hours to do a square inch, depending on how many different colors it included, how often she had to change needles or thread, and how much attention she could give it.

I had some scraps of English Oak from a project long ago, and so Rae was familiar with the deep brown, open grain.  We found some at BVC Hardwoods (Thanks, Larry!), and Rae designed the cabinet/frame to look cathedral-like.  When closed, you see a pair of Mahogany Celtic crosses, with velvet behind them.

Doors closed

Overall, a true object of devotion and beauty.

Birth Tear 3

January 7th, 2010

© Judy Chicago 1984 DMC floss on silk, 14" x 19.5"

From The Birth Project, design by Judy Chicago.  Embroidery by Rae and Kate Cloud-Sparks.  This piece evokes a lot of emotion, and I hesitated somewhat putting it here.  The thumbnail at left links to a larger version, if you wish to see it.

I don’t know how she got involved with this, actually, but Rae did have lots of friends in both Femiist and Artistic circles, so it is not that suprizing that she would know of Judy Chicago, and the Dinner Party.  I remember that she was excited by the fact that the Dinner Party had embroidery featured in it, as well as the ceramic place settings.  So when the call went around to find folks to help create the Birth Project, she and friend Kate Cloud-Sparks got involved.  Rae worked on it while we lived in Ames, Kate in Iowa City, and they both finished it in Madison, if I remember right.  While in Iowa City, Rae worked with the Emma Goldman Clinic for Women, and was an apprentice Midwife.  Ethan was to be born at home, but when she was 3 weeks late, the Midwives got nervous, the doctors talked us into a hospital birth.  Not very pleasant.  The women in her family all took longer to come to term, her mom used to joke that she had the gestation period of a horse.  So we braved it for Casey’s birth, and that went just fine.  Obviously from this image, and many of the otehrs in the series, Judy Chicago had a somewhat different view of birth.

Rae had done embroidery since her grandma taught her as a young child.  She made some samplers, some really cool designs on a pair of jeans I used to have, and often included embroideries in patchwork quilts.  The techniques she used in this piece developed ofer time, and she describes it as “painting with floss”.

Close up of stitching detail.

From the book produced of the entire Birth Project show:

“This piece was executed jointly by these two stitchers.  Rae did the blended outline stitching in a variation of the long and short stitch.  The blending was achieved through her unique use of as many as seven needles at a time.  Kate used a long and short interlocking chain or satin stitch on the body, working back and forth over the surface.  She used the thread to suggest anatomical forms, as she wanted the arms to show muscle strain.”

Judy Chicago wrote, in the Birth Project book, page 86:
“There are three embroidered versions of the Birth Tear, and each one is quite different.  I hand-drew the images onto silk for the pieces executed by Jane Gaddie Thompson (preceding page) and (jointly) by Rae Atira-Soncea and Kate Cloud-Sparks (right).  The embroidery by Etta Hallock (far right), was begun very early in the project; Etta transferred the black and white pattern I gave her to fabric herself, which makes the quality of the drawing quite different.  I specified the thread colors for all three pieces and did color studies for the piece embroidered by Rae and Kate.”

From Rae:
“Working on this piece and dealing with the energy radiating from this woman, who is obviously torn, made me work through what my hospital birth was like, what my home birth was like, and how birth is dealt with in this country.”

While this piece is technically not one of hers, I know she was proud to work with the other “needleworkers”, to be part of a large collaborative effort.  And I’m sure the experience helped build confidence toward accomplishing other projects that involved slow, meticulous detail.  She knew that the work did finally result in a finished product.  Like the Bridget piece, and the Guadeloupe.

Floss and scissors hanging from embroidery frame.

Sampler/Color Study

In Honor of Cinderella

December 24th, 2009

Click for larger image

Porcelain, Lace

This piece was inspired by the Cinderella story, and many other tales of with a female protagonist.  Rae saw many of them with a common element, the story was told always from another’s point of view.  The protagonist herself is silent, even silenced.  Hence the woman with the long neck in this piece has no mouth.  Her neck might even be elongated from the pressure of the things she wants to say but cannot.

This was one of the few pieces Rae tried in clay, though she used clay for the molds for some of her glass pieces.  It is fired porcelain, with an iridescent glaze.  The skirt is many, many yards of lace, which she was delighted to find in a bargain bin at a local fabric store just in time.  This piece was claimed shortly after the Sweeping Changes show by Beverly Gordon, in whose collection it now resides.

From an interview by Amy Bethel, Rae had this to say about the piece:


Yeah. um, from a lot of the things that were a challenge or traumatic about my early life. And I decided to make a broom that was called “In Honor of Cinderella.” And it’s a broom that’s made out of ceramic with over 500 yards of lace as the skirt. And it has a head at the top that’s very realistic, that Deb Trent helped me make. And it has a really long neck. The neck is about 3 feet long. And there’s no mouth. And the skirt–the lace skirt comes up and there are these seven little ribbons tied around the neck, as well as being [], and it’s done in a real light colored pearlescent fashion–I mean, glaze. And it’s real pretty, you know? In this sort of bizarre way. And what it is is–it is about the heroine that so many of us grew up with is this woman who never complains or shares her pain or talks about the abuse that’s been heaped upon her. She just holds it all in. So her neck just keeps getting longer and longer because there’s more and more stuff tangled up down there. And it never comes out because she has no way to speak it. And in essence that’s me, because in my early years there was a lot of pain and there were things that happened, and I was never allowed to speak them. You’d be told it didn’t happen, it isn’t true, you know , etc., etc., etc.  And everything looks really pretty. You know, everything has that sort of white bread feel to it. That everything is chintz and lace and roses and it just wasn’t. You know? It just wasn’t. It was just swallowing it. It was just swallowing your pride, it was just holding back the words, it was just biting your tongue. And that piece was acknowledging that that is an experience that I had and that stories and media and Walt Disney and our parents and society as a whole really wanted me and everybody else to respect, love, cherish and buy the video of that victim. You know? And that was about healing. And that was about articulating that that’s what that piece was about. That culturally women are, you know, supposed to live these froufrou lives, but we don’t. That’s what we’re supposed to present to the world. And we don’t–you know, we don’t have that option to suddenly find a voice.”

And from her Master’s Thesis, Master Sweepings:


(ceramics, ribbons, lace)

Little voiceless victim, sweeping cinders.  Dancing the ball with silent broom princes.  Homage to voiceless women who survived.  To loosening the silken bindings.

This piece was very problematic for me.   I knew what I wanted to say and portray.  I wanted to place Cinderella on a pedestal  not as a princess, a woman (girl) worthy of attention by a prince and a fairy godmother.   No, I wanted to honor and expose what I see as the secret truth of Cinderella  Cinderella as victim.

For that is what she is.  She is not just the victim of an “evil” stepmother and step sisters, but also of the brothers Grimm and of our culture.  The brothers Grimm set down a version of a fairy tale in which a young girl seldom talks.  She does not try to defend herself or even attempt to escape the abuse/situation.  She is a “good” girl, who stoically waits for rescue, or relief or what  death?

And our culture has picked up on this idea  of the good girl waiting to be rescued.  We’ve made myths, stories, movies of this archetype: whole theories regarding women’s powerlessness have been named for her.  This is really interesting considering that the story theme in Cinderella is universal.  Many countries and cultures have story themes of young women left alone and abused, but many of these stories reflect young women who run away, speak out about their abuse or refuse to be abused.  Characters such a Caporushes and Tatergood are good examples of this alternative view.  (need references here, further explanation) It has become apparent to me how much Cinderella’s voicelessness is like my own voicelessness as an incest survivor.  The voice that could have let me save myself was cut off.  The words that could have revealed the secrets were silenced.  The challenge for me with this piece was how to make Cinderella recognizable and still portray her as a victim.  The plan was to create a head on a stick   a kind of puppet figure.  This would symbolize the collection of unspoken words.  The skirt would be made up of layers of lace fabric and bound with ribbons, symbolic of femininity, layers, tangled webs, Cinderella’s rags and her ball gown.  The skirt would be wrapped with rings of ribbon to represent the acts and circumstances that had “caught” the words in her throat.  Culture, life, abuse had all left their mark upon the victim.

I decided to make the stick out of clay.  Not only is clay incredibly pliable, but it is both fragile and durable (fired clay can last for thousands of years).  The surface of the clay is not smooth, it is banged up, it shows life experiences  like a survivor.  A clay face, the head of a woman who had survived, a tribute to survivors.

I made many heads that did not work.  What I wanted to create was a face that had no mouth, to further represent the voiceless quality of Cinderella, and for this to be successful, it needed to be a realistic face.  I wasn’t able to create a face/head that “read” well and that looked believable without a mouth; after three heads I was appalled at my creations, which ranged from abstract aliens to mouthless death masks.   About this time the hand of fate stepped in.  First a friend with skill to help me with ceramic realism moved to town, and second, all three of the heads in my studio were broken, probably by a tremor from the street.

I sought technical assistance from two ceramicists, Deb Trent, the friend, and Elaine Shear, Professor at the UWMadison.  We discussed exactly what I needed, the symbology of the final piece and why I wanted things a specific way.  Deb and Elaine were concerned by my desire to have the stick be one piece, and how would it survive the firing.  With the input and work of the three of us,three new heads/handles began to materialize.  The first head took on a coloring book appearance, with a long braid down the back becoming the broom stick.  Another seemed too young, and did not have the eyes of a survivor.  The third was very simple and smaller in scale, more like a fireplace broom.  At first I was drawn to the coloring book piece, which I thought might be the most recognizable.  But the third really gave me the sense of victim.

I designed and directed the faces, but Deb was instrumental in shaping them.  I joined the faces to the stick, and then worked closely with Elaine on firing processes and glazes.  The head needed to be very stable, and we created a number of sample tiles.   I also had to create a specialized stand for this piece, one which had to be created while the clay was still wet and pliable.  A stand of steel and wood was developed and the ceramic neck had a hole that allowed a long dowel to fit into the head.

I decided on lace ribbons rather than fabric for the skirt.  Ribbons would allow for a closer association with broom, as well as reflect the tattered quality of Cinderella’s life and world.  I wanted to portray the aspect of a spider web, the sense of trapped-ness.  But lace has other qualities, it can also draw one in,  people are fascinated and intrigued by it and how it was made.  It can look soft and inviting and yet be scratchy.  It has a tactile quality, in both feel and sound.  The lace skirt in my broom thus draws the viewer in, and like a survivor, invites one into her space, shows her wish to be touched  nicely, while at the same time the expresses her retreat due to fear and memory.

I used over 500 yards of lace, and over 100 yards of ribbon in the skirt.  With the assistance of Melanie Herzog it was wrapped in five layers that got systematically higher and smaller.

The whole piece was a catharsis for me on many levels.  This was an act of making something that honored me, my past, and the pain that many of us had experienced and survived.  It also came at a time when I found out that my sister (a woman who lived Cinderella’s life fromsociety’s point of view) had been a victim of the same abuse I had experienced.  And finally, the piece allowed me to experience my belief in art as a collective creative process.

I had worked with Judy Chicago on the Birth Project and, like many, experienced a great deal of disappointment and even loss.  I loved the idea of women coming together, and I came into the project with a romanticized idea of a feminist art “quilting bee”, complete with process, political correctness and consciousness raising.  For the most part I was disappointed, for it was not really a collective process.

Now I had the opportunity to work with women on my own piece, to thoroughly discuss the process, the piece, the motivation behind it, etc.  I was not disappointed by the support and graciousness of my advisors.  Each gave freely of advice, help, skills, knowledge, and talent.  Each seemed clear on the collective process, yet aware of the integrity of the piece as mine, growing from my creativity.  This experience allowed me to better understand the Judy Chicago experience, though I still had personal issues with Chicago’s style.  Working with the Deb, Elaine, and Melanie was also not a feminist quilting bee, which is itself a romantic notion.  It became one of those proverbial growing experiences, in which I learned more about the collective process of creativity, about art not being made in a vacuum, and about trust and generosity.”

Witches Broom Borealis

December 19th, 2009

Found wood, painted honeysuckle vine.

This broom started as a beautiful piece of wood with a natural spiraL created by growing together with a vine.  The skirt is honeysuckle, like that in Honeysuckle Dreams, but with each piece painted with pearelescent paints.  
The  stick was also painted,first black, then with subtle highlights of sparkling color.  The inspiration for both was an astronomy picture of a nebula called the Witches Broom.
Nothing hidden, no subtle symbology in this one, just a cosmic flying broom.

Wi5ches Broom Nebula

Ancient Mother, Modern Lies

December 6th, 2009
Closed at MFA show

Closed at MFA show

Available! $1000

From the Age of Confusion: Ancient Mother, Modern Lies
walnut, silk, bronze, clay, mirror


(click images to enlarge)

This is one of the pieces from her MFA show, Women, Domesticity, and Objects of Power.  As most of the pieces, its title begins: From the Age of…
Rae really liked creating this piece, I know.  It combines many different media, tells its story without translation or comment, a different story to each viewer.  She got to work with silk, and photo transfer images; wax figurines that were spin-cast; stained glass; terra-cotta; and wood.  Each aspect could stand alone, together they make an exquisite piece.  AMML_opened
I remember the piece started with the images on the silk, behind the bronze figurines inside the cabinet.  She had seen a set of lovely silk pillows/sachets with goddess images on them, and discovered the images were photo-transfers, so she selected a dozen images of women: the Laussel goddess, Marilyn Monroe, Mae West, others I recognize but can’t name, since I did not take any Art History classes.  She chose the size she would eventually make the box for each, then experimented with the technique till she was satisfied.
The little bronze figurines were painstakingly molded in wax, she carried around a Tupperware container with dental tools and would work on them during lectures and between classes, at meetings, and while watching TV.  They depict shamelessly large, brazen (literally!) voluptuous sexy women in a variety of poses.  The spin-casting technique was fun, too, I helped her set them up.  Instead of a large foundry, the molds were in small steel cylinders.  these were placed on an armature, the molten bronze poured in, and the lid slammed down, which engaged a lever and fulcrum, spinning the mold at several G’s, forcing the molten liquid into the small spaces before it cooled.
The wooden cabinet is reminiscent of a wall clock in shape, I had to help her determine the miter angles, she used spline joints all around, the only metal in the hinges and to tack the back on.  The walnut is carefully matched for color and grain.  The colored glass carefully cut to fit into the doors, I remember holding my breath during that, we only had one piece of glass to use, the last of its color, a beautiful smoking golden.AMML_top_open
AMML_top_closedThe top was another achievement.  Looks a bit like a birdhouse, maybe ready for a cuckoo to pop out of.  The door and it’s frame appear to be made of one piece of wood, so well matched is the grain, but it was not.  The door itself was a piece of Walnut burl, and the frame was carved to receive it’s curves.  Inside Rae placed one of her ubiquitous mirrors, framing a terra-cotta goddess like the neolithic figurines found in Europe, very much like the one in the Spiritus piece from last week’s blog.
I think you know who the ancient mother is, and I’ll let you infer yourselves about the modern lies, as Rae would have.  Enjoy!

Spiritus Muliebris: volutum per aspicio paternus: Totem Series

December 2nd, 2009

(Divine Female: Evolution of the Patriarchal Gaze)patriarchal_web

basswood, ash, bronze, stone, broomcorn

Spiritus is one of Rae’s Totem series, which started with Celtic Totem, and also includes the Jumping Knot Broom.  Like Celtic Totem, it tells a story.  But not a folktale, rather the story of the historical record of how the female figure was represented in art, and in spirituality.
I remember Rae asking me what the Latin word for “gaze” was.  She tended to think I could answer any question immediately, and I had, after all, taken 2 semesters of Latin in High School…  So I looked up a variety of words for her, and she crafted the title of this piece from those words and definitions, taking no more liberties than is common in pseudo-latin for scientific names, and certainly few Latin grammar purists to complain.  The name is permanent now in any case, and fits the meaning intended.  The broom represents the evolution over time of the representation of the female form, specifically the sacred feminine form, the evolution of the gaze of the patriarchy.
The broom comes apart for storage and transport, like the Celtic Totem, with the stick part forming a tenon at its base, fitting into the base of the broom.  So I will start the description of the broom from the bottom, which is the beginning of the timeline represented, as well.
SPIRITUS_BASEThe very bottom is a block of Ash, with some beautiful grain in it, supporting a block of limestone, to protect both the stone and any floor it would have to sit on.  The Ash wood was sculpted to fit the irregularities of the stone underneath, and two holes were bored through the wood and the stone.  The stone itself then represents the Earth, the oldest (non)representation of the sacred female.
Above the stone is Rae’s representation of one of the oldest female figures found by archaeologists, on the Isle of Malta.  Several of thesefertility_Goddess_low statues, all without heads, dating to ~3500BCE were found.  Called by Marija Gimbutas the Giantess, she was obviously important to the people then, and her size, like those of the Willendorf and other figurines, implied that slimness was not a valued attribute in representation of the sacred female.  Rae added a head, I don’t remember what it was modeled from.  The broom makes up Her skirt and legs, with bolts connecting the base below, through the two broomcorn “legs” and into the body of the Goddess, who was carved into two large pieces of Basswood glued into one block.  A cavity in the body accepts the “neck” of the head of the goddess, who’s hare curls into a bun which becomes a snake, coiling up and around the rest of the sculpture.
spiritus_lionsspiritus_lions_backThe next figure is also very old, a curvaceous female with large breasts and buttocks, flanked by two lions, indicating her power and status.  Also very much not a modern pinup. The snake crosses her belly and continues up, she stands with her feet together on the head of the Malta goddess.  Some archaeologists have stated that since there is no head, and all the Maltese figures are “obese”, there is no way to state that it is indeed female.  But ther is definitely no doubt of the gender of this figure.
spiritus_top_frontStanding on her shoulders, with the snake curling around an ankle and between her legs, is a figure from Hindu temple walls, a Lakshmi, perhaps.  Hand on outthrust hip, large but not pendulous bosom, she appears confident and unashamed, but perhaps a little flirtatious, too…
Next is a highly decorated bust of an Egyptian goddess.  More aloof, regal.  More obviously decorative, her power from her rank and position, a beauty to be observed from a distance, with awe and respect.  Rae painted some of the neckpiece with opalescent colors, also used on the earrings of the Indian goddess.
Atop the whole is a bronze statuette, the Virgin Mary, which Rae began with a small statuette, added wax to create a halo with 3 small sand-dollars in it, and added a snake curling around the base of her robe (not under her foot), and 3 starfish on the rock at the base.
It was a lot of carving, a lot of sanding.  There was more wood removed than remaining in the end, and she faced lots of challenges with leaving enough for strength.

Rainbow Tipi

November 12th, 2009

rainbow-tipiThe Rainbow Tipi was one of Rae’s first large pieces as a student artist, around 1981  We were living in a trailer park in Iowa City, I was working at the Amana Furniture & Clock Shop, Rae was taking classes at the U of Iowa.  She was exploring her Native heritage, getting a few stories out of her mother, grandmother, other family.

Her vision was for a portable shrine or temple as the Yurt would later be.  She researched the history and construction of Tipis,  checked methods for decorating canvas, and designed the interior.

We had a small craft business, our own and consignment, we called The Enchanted Glade, in the “Hall Mall” in downtown Iowa City.  The name changed to the Rainbow Tipi when we moved to Ames later, in honor of the tipi, which we took camping to several pagan gatherings, and lived in our last 8 months in Iowa City, with both the boys as young kids.

EZ Casey tipi blanktipi_layouttipi_downThe canvas for the cover was laid out in our tiny yard in the trailer park, the design penciled on, then gesso wherever the paint was to go, then pencil again, using string to draw the arcs of the rainbow after figuring out how to get exactly 5 rainbows in the hemisphere.  The edge was painted black for about 14 inches, and around the top, the smoke hole, were the phases of the moon on a black background.

The interior of the tipi had a tipi liner, common in modern tipis, to allow air to come in around the base, flow between the tipi and inner liner, and then out, creating a draft to take smoke out, and keep the tipi cool in warm weather.

tipi_firedoorfelted goddesstipi_watertipigoddessearth

The liner was designed with 5 goddess figures on it, connected by more rainbows.  The door was was through a flame-circled womb.  A buffalo-woman made of felt, a water-goddess of blue silk with beadwork , a painted tree-bark inspired Earth Goddess, a spider-woman, and I just can’t remember what the last one was…Air? (several of these were later resurrected for the Yurt).  Each one had her arms curbing upward, and a silver painted moon/mirror in place of a head.

We used the tipi as a home, for camping at several Pagan events, and when we moved to Madison, we put it up out at Barb  and Cal’s farm, then a CSA, west of Madison.  They used it for some rituals, and as temporary shelter for some of their workers, I believe.  Eventually, as all canvas does, it was lost to the elements.  We had taken out the liner to store, since it was more fragile and we didn’t want the elements ruining it.  Which is how some of the interior pieces ended up in the Yurt piece.rae with tipi

Ancient Wisdom Strikes

November 3rd, 2009
Ancient Wisdom Strikes

Ancient Wisdom Strikes

Maple, Koa, silver, grass fibers

Ancient Wisdom Strikes was one of the most time-consuming of the Sweeping Changes brooms.  The stick was a solid piece of hard Maple, carved into two intertwining snakes, in a sort of Caduceus.  The snakes have little forked tongues made of silver, looking like lightning striking the outstretched arms of the priestess between them.

The priestess figure will be familiar to students of history, or religion, or religion.  Priestess or Goddess, with a snake in each hand, found in Knossos, Crete, by Arthur Evans around the beginning of the 20th century, dating to 4000 years ago or so.

Rae carved the figure from a piece of Koa, a dark, rich tropical wood that carved well and took a great satin finish.  The Goddess/Priestess has an owl sitting on her head, symbol of wisdom and spiritual power, and holds the two snakes with are touched by the silver tongues of the snakes, like lightning bolts striking and imparting energy to her through them.

Cretan Snake Priestess

Cretan Snake Priestess

Prestess/Goddess at top of broom.  Detail

Priestess/Goddess at top of broom. Detail

The skirt for this one is an antique-looking broadleaf grass, looking somewhat like corn sheaves, slightly thinner.

The symbology here is not subtle, the name of the piece tells the story.  Wisdom, sought after or not, can come with a blinding clarity and immense power.