blog description

Old women talk about old things: history, myth, magic and their
checkered pasts, about what changes and what does not.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Judy Chicago's DINNER PARTY

During 1974-79, Judy Chicago, along with collaborators both male and female in what are patronizingly called “decorative arts,” (embroidery, weaving, painting on ceramic) created a work called The Dinner Party. This was a triangular table with an exquisitely embroidered runner and 39 hand-painted and decorated ceramic plates. Each was made in the shape of a vulva, and decorated in a way which was meant to express the spiritual, artistic and esthetic contribution to society made by a famous woman. 

The Dinner Party Wolstonecraft Plate may be seen, along with the rest, 
at the Brooklyn Museum: 

The work has plenty of critics, some, the usual suspects, powerful old men in high places who loudly declared that it was “pornographic,” but also quite a few feminists. Some criticism has to do with the way certain famous women are represented—for instance, frilly 50's petticoat frills might not have been the best choice for the solitary lady in white Emily Dickinson. Perhaps the inclusion of Georgia O’Keeffe, who declared that her flower paintings had nothing to do with the vaginal, showed a disregard for her often stated opinion. Perhaps Virginia Woolf, a writer who despised the public’s obsession with the gender of authors, is another who should not have been included.  Other female critics have said that The Dinner Party is not only vulgar, a tune with one note, but demeaning to women, reducing these brave and brilliant fore-mothers to a bad-joke common denominator.

I’m not a visual artist, but it seems to me that while you might find fault with a part of the whole, The Dinner Party accomplishes its purpose, both as a work of art and as a powerful, provocative feminist statement.  It is estimated that 15 million people on three continents have seen it, pondered it, and argued about it.

The installation has been a taking off place for women to think about their obscured history and about their accomplishments, about their historical and mythical power, their works of art and their creativity.  It's a shout-out for the central fact of the feminine. 

Hindu Temple, Goddess gives birth

If the penis has been celebrated as the ejaculator of ideas, why can’t the vulva, too, be celebrated and honored as it once was in pagan times? Let's reclaim that old time pride in our bodies and what they can do. Woman is the portal through which all creation emerges.

Judy Chicago's artwork is ongoing:

Birth Tear, from the Birth Project, by Judy Chicago

Senior curator David Revere McFadden wrote about The Creation tapestry:
“...Casting this archetypal story as that of female fecundity flies in the face of visual, cultural, and religious history. It becomes a metanarrative by implication, reflecting Chicago’s determination to challenge the status quo and to question received knowledge”.

~~~Juliet Waldron

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Sunday, July 23, 2017

A Visit to the Fey

I was recently privileged to join in a procession of the Fey--behind no less a personage than the Queen of Fairies, as a part of her entourage. This doesn't happen to a human very often, and certainly not often to elder humans. 

Old people remind the Queen of decay and death, things she does not allow within her realm, her realm which is eternal--ever-green--as they say. She and her subjects do not age; they are forever young and fair. Therefore, to sing to her and walk beside her people was a great honor for this old woman, definitely a bucket list item.

(Not to say I've never danced with the Fey. I, in the days of my youth--back in the now legendary and generally misunderstood sixties, back when I was young and fair, I participated in her rites--rites which raise energy, and all that naturally follows after, those encounters in the dark scented forest, where all celebrants channeled Venus and Mars. Never mind, it's all back of me now.)

Bay Laurel

The Fairy Queen is a lover of high fashion, of flashing sequined quirks, tinkling bells, supple bare flesh, bejeweled dresses woven with spider's web. She even loves kinky boots, so her devotees wore them too.

Her entourage was more than ready to indulge her every whim, and upon this high magical occasion, they certainly pulled it off. I wore the best dress I had, long sleeves, flowing in mauve, in blue and green. A generous member of Her court gilded my cheek with a star. I braided my long white hair and carried a wand taken from the Holy Laurel. At first I held an inspirational leaf between my lips, like the Delphic Priestess.

  The Queen of Elphame, by Fuseli

Oh, how these fairies shone as they walked, fairy lights and fairy dust around them, making music with their sweet voices, a procession through twilight, following the glorious Queen and her tasty Year King! Beguiled, I followed after. When they began to sing, I took the laurel leaf from between my lips, lifted my laurel wand and had the pleasure of joining my still true voice with theirs.

And what did we sing in our ecstasy--again and again in an endless spiral--but one of the songs which captivate mortals and carry them into a realm that is fickle, cruel, and totally enthralling, a song which the fairies will sing even as the silver flash of a sacrificial knife pierces their own cool fairy hearts:

We shall be free
We shall be free
To sing 
And dance 
And make love--
Won't you come with me?

~~ Walker

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Testament of this White Woman of America

My ancestors yes came here and
As it was in 1745,
No doubt they pushed the people 
who lived here first
Or worse. 

Over this, I have no control, 
but I still carry my ancestor’s
to those First Nations
whose rights, ways, and lives
we stone house people have washed over,
A catastrophe hurtling from the sea.

We have lived here now, we albinos members
of the monkey tribe,
For 200 years and more.
We have eaten the food that grows here,
Are born and nourished by this soil.
Can we remain so disrespectful
Of the same land which is 
now OUR birth mother too?
She our soul, 
as she was the soul
of nations she nourished before.

The 1st Nations knew how to live here, 
Lightly in this paradise
Of plenty. 
They understood the cycles, how the
Foxes and rabbits,
Rabbits and foxes, 
Over and over again.

There are 9 billion of us now, 
destroying our range, standing in pens full of muck,
Awaiting slaughter like our enslaved insulted animals—
This is NOW oh oil/gas/poison masters—
we have cancer, our guts fail, our children
are born with autism.

There are other paths than the ones we have been pursuing
And we’d better see the green way of it quick.
We can evolve and if we do
We just
Survive what’s coming.
The way the Mammon's followers would have us go—
into the red pulsing throat of the volcano—

Now we might kill our entire species without too much guilt,
But the idea that we would drag
The Miracle, this one in a million ride
She Upon Whose Skin We Are Privileged to draw breath,
Into our self-made wanton blind abyss …

We all share this planet; 
Air Water Earth.

It is nothing less than Sin to
Curse this holy ground, 
The Mother who nursed us,
One in a million Gaia.
She will succor--or consume--
our grandchildren.

 ~~Juliet Waldron