By Paul Gessell
The term “sacred feminine” is used by scholars and sometimes charlatans to explain female power and divinity in various religions from Hinduism to Wicca to Christianity.
Remember The Da Vinci Code? The “sacred feminine” in that bestselling novel (and subsequent movie) was embodied in Mary Magdalene, the Biblical prostitute who found religion and was supposedly impregnated by Jesus Christ. Less fictional is the veneration of Mary, the mother of Christ, a manifestation of the “sacred feminine” by some branches of Christianity in both ancient and contemporary times.
Gatineau artist Isabelle Gauvreau explores the “sacred feminine” in her new mixed-media exhibition at St. Laurent-Hill Gallery in the Byward Market. Gauvreau has for several years created drawings, often life-sized, of the female body. Decorated with gold leaf, the figures are like religious icons. The drawings never include a head because Gauvreau wants each figure to represent all women, not a specific person.
But Gauvreau’s art has changed. In her latest exhibition, titled The Sacred, she literally places herself in the art, by covering her own body in ink and then lying upon different types of paper, including Mylar, Canson and Japanese to leave a detailed impression of the artist’s flesh. Religious iconography and other decorative touches are then added. In many cases, that means drawing a small cross on that most “sacred” of spots from which children are born.
“In my series of impressions, I am a part of the creative ritual, I am a part of the art, and it is precisely this element that marks an evolution in my work: I am actually in the art,” Gauvreau says in a written artist’s statement. “In the past, I represented; now, I interpret through the act of rendering visible facts that were once obscure or internalized.”
This new style of art is more raw and rough than Gauvreau’s previous works, which were more decorative and fussy but also very popular with collectors. The artist calls her new style an “experiment.” That is a positive sign that Gauvreau is willing to take risks with her art. It is also a sign that her creative process is alive and well.
The Sacred continues at St. Laurent-Hill Gallery until Dec. 4.