1986, oil on canvas, 4 x 6', by Jenny Badger Sultan
In 1986, I had been working on large paintings showing different aspects of the Goddess; that Fall, I knew it was time to work on the aspect of the Old Woman, the Crone.
I did drawings, thinking of different ways of showing her--seated, draped, massive. Finally, I knew I had to show her as standing and unclothed.
As I began to paint the thin, old body, and work on her face, I saw my own mother begin to appear. My mother was ailing and frail at this time, and in helping her to take baths and wash her hair I was closer to her bodily reality than I had been since I was little.
The containing shape around her arose spontaneously as I painted. It reminded me of a sarcophagus.
Instead of cloth drapery, the veils of imagery coming out of or going into her body began to take shape. They came to represent different things:
The grey-green staff she holds also came from an old dream image, and the colors painted on her face linked her somehow to Native American spiritual traditions.
- Blood and the cells of the body
- Rock-like Demeter mourning at the crossroads
- Myself as baby and girl
- The green male aspect
- A dream of the garden my mother tended for most of my life
- Spider Woman's maze
- The butterflies of the soul.
I worked for months on the painting, slowly, as is my way. In the Spring, before it was finished, my mother died. I felt that I had somehow known that her death was near when I began the painting, and doing it had given me an opportunity to meditate on her and contemplate my relationship to her and to my own aging. I had to stop working on the painting for many months as the most intense part of my grief took over. In a while I was able to return to it and complete it.
The image represents for me both my own personal mother and the archetype of the Old Woman. I have titled it "Mother Guide" and on the back I wrote "This is a work of love."