|"Black Madonna" 2013, mixed media|
I seem to be fascinated with the Black Madonna, and if I was Catholic, I would undoubtedly join one of the many, very ancient and traditional, Pilgrimages to the Black Madonna that occur throughout Europe, including Poland, Spain, France, and elsewhere. Many believe that the Black Madonna has its roots in Pre-Christian worship of Isis, portrayed with Her child Horus throughout the Roman world and, of course, Egypt.
But I believe the origins may go back even farther.
The Black Madonnas are almost always associated with Sacred Sites, places that contain a holy well, spring, or are associated with a sacred cave. In other words, places of numinous power within the earth, places that ancient peoples knew to enhance visionary experience, heal, raise energy, enhance fertility, and facilitate communion with the spiritual realms.
The earliest representation of the human figure, going back as far as 40,000 years and possibly farther...........are the ubiquitous so-called "Venus" figures, such as the famous "Venus of Willendorf", as well as representations of a stylized vulva found in visual iconography. In the 2010 film Cave of Forgotten Dreams , Werner Herzog followed an exclusive expedition into the nearly inaccessible Chauvet cave in France, which houses the most ancient visual art known from the upper Paleolithic era. Archeo/mythologist Mirrium Dexter pointed out that the only human image within the site is a female lower torso, or vulva form......the bull image was painted above it a later time. Although it's never commented on in the movie, or in most discussions of the cave, Dexter suggested that the cave represented the womb/tomb where the magic of rebirth occurs, and by the act of honoring and representing the animal powers which were both allies and sustenance, they were offering them for re-birth within the cave/womb of the Great Mother.
So perhaps my sculpture is a contemporary echo of that image, the "Black Madonna" in Her most primal form, roots and source and life radiating out from Her belly, Her breasts. This is a Diety that brings us back to our own very primal roots, reverence for the Earth Mother that births us, sustains us, and takes us back to be re-born.
Another aspect of the Black Madonna to me, which of course I so often refer back to, is the element of "composting" (which isn't unrelated to "rebirth"). Composting is a biological process of renewal, and I believe it's a soul process as well.
"I do what the poet Gary Snyder calls "composting" — You let everything you do/learn/think/read/feel sink down inside yourself and stay in the dark, and then (years later maybe) something entirely new grows up out of that rich darkness. This takes patience."
"From this compost -- life and light will emerge. When the pilgrims came to the Cathedral at Compostella they were being 'composted' in a sense. After emergence from the dark confines of the cathedral and the spirit -- they were ready to flower, they were ready to return home with their spirits lightened."
~~ Jay Weidner