Identity

IdentitySeptember, 1995
Oils on paper
22.5” x 31.5”

Oh! This painting is so important!

I was on to some really big things – I knew about the Burning Times and its effect on so many of us. I knew about God/Spirit/Higher & Deepest Self. I knew it was the crone I was reaching towards. How frightened I was. Yet, I donned the orange cloak of power here, dealt with the implications, and then sat in “Waiting at the Gate.” I also declared my sisterhood with anyone who wanted to play in “Shedding Skins.” That my tribe wanted to play is evidenced a little later in “Homecoming.” The next step was letting go into the unknown.

On the other side of that terrifying process was being brave enough to show this work at the “Out of the Ashes” Show at Nehalem Bay Rec. Center in February 2004. But back then, from 1996 on, it was another long time of consolidation: doing the Cartm Recycling Center, menopause, sexual issues, food stuff, herbs, Tarot, Moonspinners and Mixed Group. Physical healing, community legitimacy, tribe emerging. Until the green egg could finally be born.

But right here. Right in this painting, she said, “Go for it, Girl!” And I did.

Update July 2014: A few years ago this painting “came alive” for me when i was walking on the beach practicing playing with my little girl self from my soul retrieval. A gull danced into my peripheral  vision and with the hairs rising along the back neck and i felt myself embodied in the crone of the painting. Major goose bumps. I fictionalized that experience in my novel-in-progress, What If, Can Be.

Journal 9/14/95: Images swirl in my head about my identity assignment. A nude self-portrait? The logistics of mirror and light are so hard. A dancing joyful one like all the photos I’ve put up over the years? That image has certainly been an antidote for me to the world’s sorrows. But is that my present identity? I feel more earthbound and digging these days. And what about all the mini-identities – mother, teacher, walker, painter, lover, Tarot reader, learner? Can I find an image that fits them all in? Or can stark, naked me say it all? The “World” Motherpeace Tarot might work – dancing wise woman with a circle of people arcing around her – the people could be others – or they could be aspects of me.

10/6/95: I threw the Tarot and it was mostly about letting go of my head, my ego, my rational side. Not an unusual message for me in the past year! So I went down to my space – smudged, lit candles, prayed. Started in with red which became part of a spiral. Reaching ecstatically, the girl twirls almost out of control. Is it the me I almost was as a child? Sometimes felt inside – occasionally managed to let go of consequences enough to actually be. (I’ve been thinking I should make a list of all the times I’ve been a “bad” girl.) Doing the bird made me realize how the gull has been my uplifting omen of my childhood. As the hawk was for my Fire Mountain School years and the raven is now. And suddenly I knew a crone needed to go in there – a crone in all her magnificent glory. The me I am aching to become – the identity I am working on. I thought about giving her a paintbrush. But she is so much more than that. Instead she got a gorgeous, stunning orange cloak with purple swirls on it.It seemed to me she was guiding the girl towards the adventures of the tunnel though she could also be welcoming her back into a loving safe embrace.

10/8/95: It is a powerful painting, but I am very frightened. The tunnel seems scary – the journey itself to learn what I need to learn. But the coming out is scarier. It was not okay with my family of origin in the 1950s to be into all this weird stuff. Whatever intuition/sensitivity I was allowed in my growing up was carefully guarded – my time in the trees and on the ground, my belief in fairies, my belief in goodness, my belief in God – all had to be kept a secret even from myself. I can look back now and see the signs, the footprints. It was not safe to acknowledge them in that time. I shielded myself well.

So now the shields are coming down. The layers of protective skin are being peeled back. The process is sometimes joyful and sometimes painful. At any rate, the painting set off reverberations! I have been reeling ever since with the implications. The painting group can only sort of get it. They see the power shining through – not the effort it takes and not the lack of safety I feel. In Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, Christiane Northrup talks about our visceral inherited/remembered fear of the Burning Times. I believe her. I remember. Do I feel warned off by my experiences in this life or is it a more ancient, learned fear? The painting group poo-pooed that yesterday but it may be more important than any but weirdos like Shirley MacLaine profess. Is that the limb I’m out on? You betcha. It would certainly explain the demons and scary images that keep appearing in my paintings.

The blank space in the middle of the whirlpool/tunnel/tornado – I knew it was somehow both the essence of myself and the answer I am seeking. God. Especially when I think of the Quaker Inner Light and the mobius strip of God being outer/other and all of us too.

I started to paint my birthmark – the star on my chest that I have always treasured. And which for many years has seemed like a sign that someone would recognize. It seemed somehow essential to my identity so I got out my gold paint. I was also thinking of one of my ideas of myself as a many faceted crystal. The result is not exactly either. In fact it looks rather like a skin or pelt pegged up to dry – a kernel of somewhat mysterious gold in the center/end/beginning of a mysterious tunnel – as a reminder. An important reminder, I’d guess.

6/3/98: Now it makes me think of Sumerian Goddess Inanna and her skin hung on the hooks in the underworld by her sister Ereshkigol. I have always thought of that image as an ugly thing but our skins are beautiful, aren’t they? Gold would be most appropriate. And now it seems more central to me. I have accepted the cloak – my woven orange ruana – with glee and am getting closer to that golden kernel of my true self and the green egg where the knowledge is stored and waiting for me to remember and use.

Written for the Living Out Loud Show, Bay City Arts Center, November 2004

SHEDDING SKINIS >>