Monday, November 29, 2010

Here is the Virgin Mary, and She is the One Who Saves Sister Renata and Me!

This image of the Virgin Mary comes from my friend Kellie Meisl, whose extraordinary piece of art, "Shattered Cups," adorns the cover of my new novel, Seeing Red.

The interesting thing about these two images is their timing: the blog novel that I am writing, called Castenata, is at heart a story that features the "virgin-whore" dichotomy, a view of women that dominates our world. Think about it: women are viewed either as Madonnas, or mother figures, OR as sex objects, or whores. The Virgin Mary is just one representation of what is known as the Divine Feminine influence in the universe. Is it any wonder that millions and millions of us around the world revere the Virgin? Is it any wonder that in times of crisis -- my illness for example, and Sister Renata's imprisonment for murder -- that we turn to Mary and pray to her for help?

The dichotomy in which women appear dates back to antiquity, or so the authorities like Sarah B. Pomeroy, Sarah B. Pomeroy is Distinguished Professor of Classics at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, says. In her book, Goddesses, Whores, Wives and Slaves so long ago I don't think anybody knows where it originated. I know one thing: the virgin/whore binary is alive and well in my blog novel, Castenata. My character, Sister Renata, is both a nun, and in her cousin's fantasy tales, a seductive FLAMENCO DANCER wearing a red dress. In the novel Seeing Red, the main character, Ronda Cari, is both a mother, and a woman who wants to be a Spanish dancer. She is trying to find her peace between these two roles.

A famous anthropologist, Claude Lévi-Strauss, a man who invented the field of structural anthropology as he studied thousands of myths in indigenous populations all across the globe, proposed in a famous set of writings ("The Story of Asdiwal" is one) that all narrative -- all stories and myths -- come down to a struggle to resolve "binaries," or oppositions: good vs. evil, life vs. death, high mountains vs. low valleys, men vs. women, spiritual vs. material, the rational vs. the irrational, heaven vs. hell, illness vs. health, the good guys vs. the bad guys. I think he had it right. And that is why I write, to find peace between struggling oppositions in my psyche. The narrative helps to resolve the struggle. I know that my first book, Dreaming Maples, was an attempt to resolve the struggle between my identity as a self-less devoted mother to my three children with my equally passionate desire to be a free-spirited artist. By the time I had finished the book (it took me seven or eight years to get it into publishing form) I feel the book did resolve that binary.

Now there is another binary, or set of binaries, operating in my new work: there is the sacred versus the profane; the mother vs, the "whore." And there are more binaries, which I will explore in future posts.

Meanwhile, thanks once again to my incredibly intuitive and very gifted artist/writer friend Kellie Meisl, of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, who does Dream Art. Lately I have begun to feel that Kellie and I are on some cosmically-directed journey, with our lives and our art doing a complex dance of inspiring each other.

Kellie sent me this image of the Virgin and then followed up with an email saying, "I can't open the image I sent you." At which point I offered to post it on one of my numerous blogs.

And when I posted it, voila, I realized the significance of the pair of images that Kellie has provided me in recent days. The highly erotic and seductive cover image of Seeing Red, and the ghostly blue and sparkling image of the Virgin.

Unknowingly, by sending me the Virgin image last night, Kellie made me see in a crystal clear way -- as clear as the sky surrounding the Virgin's halo -- that my new writing is informed by a number of binaries, some of which are major in proportion.

Artist Kellie Meisl holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from MCLA, formerly North Adams State College. An artist who relies on dreams as a springboard for her work, she uses paint, reclaimed wood, found objects and collage, and has created most of her pieces over the past decade for community causes. She is an annual contributor to the Think Pink Breast Cancer Awareness Art Exhibit in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and this year her intricate wire sculpture, a mermaid called "Awareness," was purchased by Pittisfield Mayor James Ruberto. Kellie has shown her work at her local municipal gallery, the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts, where she teaches DreamArt classes in her native Berkshires. In 2009, she published her first book, Dream Stories: Recovering the Inner Mystic. The cover features her first painting for Think Pink, entitled, “Hummingbird Medicine.” Kellie can be reached through her website, KellieMeislDreamArt.

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