When visiting the Crawford Art Gallery recently, I was struck by one work in particular at the Recasting Canova exhibition: Aphrodite of Milos. She immediately represented ‘protector’ though I overheard another visitor comment on how ‘caring’ the figure was. Neither observations are incorrect, but I began thinking about how the language we use impacts our interpretations and mindset. I have also been researching the history of Sheela na Gigs and their presence in Ireland. They are believed to hold apotropaic (protective) magic and display a form of exhibitionism. I refer back to Peter Schjeldahl’s Hot, Cold, Heavy, Light essay on concrete as this work develops, as he referred to concrete as having the ‘froideur of Pallas Athena’, a Greek goddess who is described as exhibiting both the vision of femininity and masculinity, at different times. This fluidity in identity speaks to important conversations we must have around our varying degrees of being and societal expectations. I am establishing representations of the figure, or modern-day Sheela na Gigs that explore how the female body is represented in different ways in both public and private spaces. I aim to create ‘pleasurescapes’ through the figurative forms and visual poetry, opening up conversations about our lived experiences.
The images featured are Susie Q’s Hymedelas exhibited at K-Fest in Kerry, June 2022.