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The End

This is the end of the 2010-2011 edition of the 7 Goddess Project. The project will hopefully resume this fall at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year. In the meantime, see what work has already been done on the project, do a little research on who the 7 Goddesses are, and feel free to leave a comment or a message if you’re interested in learning more!

~Genevieve LeNoir

Goddess Bless.

The Future

The question remains, “Where will this project go from here?” This year has proven that a huge amount of time and effort are required to create even one panel for this project, and there are many left to do. The goal remains achievable, but who will carry it forward is still a bit of a mystery.

While I would like to say that I will happily take on the rest of the project, the truth is that it’s not something I can do by myself. Next year I will no longer be a member of Strong House Team, so any work that I do on the project henceforth will be completely volunteer work—and will take time away from classwork and other obligations.

It has been suggested that the project should be passed on to next year’s House Team as a kind of legacy project, and this is probably what will happen to it. It has yet to be seen whether anyone on the House Team for next year will be interested in taking the project up and continuing it.

It’s likely that I will compromise by finishing the designs for the other panels and handing over the task of painting to whoever chooses to take on the project in the future. It is my hope that the 7 Goddess Project will not just fade into idleness, but will instead be taken up by someone with drive and fortitude, who will carry it into the future as an inspiration to future students of Strong.

Iconography is intrinsic to the depiction of divine figures. Each character of mythology has its own ways by which it is identified, without which they could not be recognized across time and space. For most gods and goddesses these symbols are things like weapons, colors, clothing, special items, companions, or actions. Skin and hair color, facial features, and similar considerations are usually not part of the orthodox description of a divine figure. This is because usually the iconic elements are drawn from the mythology surrounding the deities, emerging from specific stories and later included in the wider array of symbology.

When choosing which icons to include in a particular depiction of a divine figure, artistry ceases to be the sole concern of composition. Without icons, a piece is no longer a good depiction of the subject, because in many ways the symbology makes the subject. Without a physical model upon which to base the figure, all that is left to identify it to the audience is the specific iconography of the subject. However, it is important to realize that making the meaning of a piece transparent to any potential audience is impossible, because without knowledge of the specific code of icons unique to each figure, the viewer can never accurately guess the meaning. Iconography in art behaves the way that languages do in speech; and, as with listening to any language, an observer who does not know the meaning of a word will not be able to understand. The vocabulary of iconography must be learned before the language of icons can be understood.

In designing the murals for this project, I attempted to combine artistry and iconography to get the best effects for both viewers with the right iconographic vocabulary and those without. I could never include every icon of a goddess in her mural, because over time people have given many different descriptions to every goddess, so I chose a few which were to me the most telling about each goddess and fitted best into the composition. Some important icons were deliberately left out—for example, Guanyin’s sacred water jar is missing from the final design because I preferred the composition without it, despite its importance to her character. Things like colors were easy to include, so emblematic colors are the most obvious manifestations of iconography here; however, as more murals are added, the composition of the set as a whole will become more important to consider, and the combinations of colors will need to be balanced carefully.

The best way to research the iconography of a particular figure is to examine a broad range of art pieces featuring that figure. By finding recurring motifs, a collection of icons can be extrapolated. Also, reading the myths related to a divine character can provide insight into important times in the character’s mythic life, or important attributes of the figure. If veneration of the divinity involves some kind of sacrifice or offering, oftentimes there will be certain objects which are preferred for devotion, which are often related to the symbols of the deity.

Iconography is important in all kinds of arts, and religious art most of all. Without a vocabulary of icons the artist finds herself speaking a different language than her audience, making communication between the maker and viewer impossible. Icons provide a foundation from which the artist can establish a connection with her audience, introduce her subject, and hopefully from there create something brand-new.

Reflection

This project has really been a joy to work on. I was initially worried that the proposal would be rejected because in my experience, most educated, liberal-minded people nowadays consider religiosity to be something shameful—that strong religious feelings indicate a kind of delusion, a denial of scientific reasoning, a hopeless faith in indoctrinated misconceptions. It was a pleasant surprise when the proposal was not only accepted, but encouraged—an exploration of what humankind considers the true marks of womanhood. The work that’s gone into this project, by myself and others, has really been phenomenal.

Choosing the right combination of goddesses has been incredibly difficult, and I’m still not sure I’ve got it right. The goal has always been to represent the beliefs of people worldwide, but there are so many options, and so many divinities who are truly beautiful, interesting, and powerful, any one of which might be a great addition to the project, that there could never be a way to include all of them. The current lineup includes figures from Africa, Asia, North America, Latin America (Mexico), Europe, and the Pacific Ocean, and hopefully that range is sufficient to fill most of the gaps.

This has always been intended as a community project, and at the beginning it was very easy to get participants from the House to pitch in and help out. As the year went on, it became harder and harder to evoke that kind of participation. This was not unexpected, but it was of course a little disappointing. I thought that it would be possible to solicit a bit more help by setting a long period (three hours at a time) at a consistent time every week during which people could come participate, but this ended up not being the case. Despite this, special thanks go out to Mira Singer, a freshman this year, for showing up practically every time and being a great help during all stages of this project. Mira definitely contributed the most to this project of everyone who volunteered their time, and furthermore was a great resource of advice and consultation during the process.

Sometimes the work was definitely frustrating. I could have used more help in the later periods of painting and the design and prep process was more arduous than I’d initially anticipated. Painting on a large scale is very different than painting on a small scale. However, researching the various goddesses was a lot of fun, and trying to capture these figures on canvas has been an inspiring challenge. The point of an icon is to encapsulate everything that makes the subject recognizable, but also to make the audience feel something in response. I hope that I have been successful in creating something which is both pleasant to look at and conveys the messages of the figures.

Hello world!

Hello! This is my new blog documenting a project I’m working on here at school. Feel free to explore the site. Please support me in this undertaking!