Mouth Shut Heart Open
When I was first asked to participate in the show, the issue that I found myself personally invested in was the urgency for, and challenge of, empowering women. Drawing on my long time fascination with Indian Classical mythology I turned to a specific, personally transformative story about the Goddess Durga (retold by Sally Kempton in her book Awakening Shakti). In this story, the world has been conquered by demon brothers who through their cleverness and dedication earn a boon from the God Indra that no man or god could ever defeat them in battle.
As a result, they overthrow all of the other gods and banish them to the underworld. “The brothers, having conquered everything worth conquering, devote themselves to collecting art and women, to building houses and commissioning songs of praise…” All is hopeless until a sage points out a loophole in the boon - no mention was made of women. So the desperate gods search out and plead with Durga - the warrior goddess of protection and strength - to intervene and restore the universal balance. At first Durga refuses in anger at their thousands of years of disrespect of the feminine principle and mistreatment of the goddesses. But eventually she agrees and goes into battle with the demonic forces on the behalf of all the gods.
As she faces her opponent, instead of using weapons, “from her body emerges a host of beautiful light-forms,” other goddesses that represent the various powerful aspects of consciousness such as beauty, knowledge, wisdom, love, victory, regeneration, sexuality, desire, etc. In this way Durga overcomes every kind of evil that confronts her, eventually killing the two demon brothers who started the whole thing. As the last of them is dying, he is described as having a smile come over his face “as the ecstasy of the goddess fills his being. In that instant, both demons are transfigured, dissolving into Durga’s body, dying into the mystery.”
My point of departure was to focus on the idea of Durga’s physical body as a site from which light-forms emerged. I decided to imagine that as a physical experience in my own body and explore what forms would emerge. The resulting body of work consists of five paintings and one video piece - a synthesis of movement and painting. The pieces may be kept together and displayed as one work or they can be treated as separate works. The title for this body of work (Mouth Shut Heart Open) came to me in a dream after several weeks of exploration.
For this body of work I decided to commit to a purely intuitive route, allowing the scope of the project to develop gradually, over weeks. Following in the footsteps of mystical artists such as Hilma Alf Klint, Anna Halperin, and Pina Bausch I chose to approach my creative process as a ritual. Each working session consisted of open-ended movement exploration followed by hours of painting. The movement served as a tool for generating and articulating emotional responses within and through the body. The painting process then was a visual extension through gesture and color of the internal journey. To enhance emotional continuity between movement and painting I committed to listening to one specific album of music during my working sessions - “Spaces” by Nils Frahm.