I have a medium sized sculpture I made quite a while ago, out of a black clay called Cassius Basaltic. It’s the headless torso of a woman with arms, breasts, buttocks, and big, protruding stomach in rolls. it has a vagina and a broad, muscular back. When I made it, I had been reading Jungian books on the dark feminine for years and was aware of what is generally referred to as SHADOW. The shadow is what we deny in ourselves and don’t see because we don’t want to accept it’s part of us. When I made it, my body was getting heavier, and I was feeling the strain of carrying the shadow projection of my family. I had fallen into playing the role well of the non achieving loser and wasn’t a “real” woman because I had not married and had children. This put me outside of any real respect and everyone was perfectly ok with exploiting me and treating me like some kind of garbage they could tread on and control.
I made the sculpture to try and embrace the reality of the fact I was becoming what I had sworn and fought to never become. It’s existence attests to the power of feminine archetypes, the nature of which cannot be avoided unless a woman can develop an inner vessel of consciousness to hold the marriage of opposites. I, like so many other women, have tried to flee from the earthly feminine in my fear and ignorance, and, as a consequence have been partially possessed by the dark, ungrounded, shadow feminine.
When I made the sculpture, I deliberately exaggerated the swollen obesity, the heaviness of weight in the breasts and stomachs. I fired the black clay without glaze. I had read the mythic story about Baubo, a small dark goddess who made Demeter laugh when she was searching for Persephone by exposing it’s vagina and telling sexual, off color jokes to her. Baubo’s eyes were nipples, it’s nose the navel and the mouth the roll crease in the fat stomach. I also painted the hands of the torso silver to represent another metaphoric myth about the Silver Handed Maiden that I got from Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ “Women Who Run With the Wolves”.
I had made that sculpture while I was caregiving my mother, and I had it in a studio where my sisters came to stay when they thought they were putting my declining mother away into a facility. It had been sitting on a window shelf and someone put it in the corner and turned it around so it’s front could not be seen……Someone had not been OK with it’s naked, blatant sexual realism. That was a perfect indictment of it’s true meaning and compliment to it’s impact.
Damn the black crone! Damn the woman no longer obediently trying to stay young, hide her human imperfections, cover and hide her sexual organs and please/take care of everyone else but herself. In Jungian books about eating disorders, women either starve themselves with anorexia to disappear from the excessive and inhuman expectations of women, or massively overeat and are bulimic to numb themselves and get big to protect themselves.
Now I’m big, swollen and obese, hypothyroid, have high blood pressure and tachycardia. I have carried the dark mother, the woman who is thought of as too stupid to leave an abusive relationship, been called “too subservient” and told that “you don’t rate.” I have lived out the curse of the dark feminine shadow, the part our society has tried to burn, arrest, suppress, and control. I’ve lived with the terror and rage and grief I can’t express, lived a marginal life. I am the black sheep aunt who doesn’t get invited to things, is not included, but sends birthday gifts to grand nieces anyway. I have witnessed the horrible, hidden bias against women and the massive iceberg of comfortable denial we wrap around ourselves to live along side it, the war to keep it distant. I have survived the dark mother and shadow, am going to break the sculpture, break it down to dust and return it to earth.