Celebrations of the Divine Feminine
by Diane Saarinen
Late in October, I learned that there would be a Goddess art exhibit opening that would be held on October 28 at the New York Open Center with artist Kris Waldherr. I immediately made plans to attend, particularly after reading the following from the artist’s statement: “I believe that the stories of the goddesses and other divine women featured in this exhibition transcend religion, race or background. They express the commonalities of women throughout history and around the globe. Most importantly, they reveal the strengths, beauties and powers that all women possess — and our innate connection to the Divine Feminine.”
The evening was off to an auspicious start when it was revealed that the taxi I hailed to arrive at the gallery was driven by none other than New York’s own infamous matchmaking cabbie. What luck! What fun! However, as I was not in the need for matchmaking services, I simply sat back and listened to tales of successful matches made. But I digress…
As the Goddess gallery show also served as the Open Center’s Halloween party, I noticed many guests dressed in costume among the attractively framed and matted glorious goddess representations. I spied a tall, willowy blonde clad in evening gown and organza shawl who markedly resembled some of the figures in the artwork and realized this must be the artist — and writer — Kris Waldherr herself. (Waldherr is very much a writer; this showing of her art also doubled as a book release party for the Tenth Anniversary Edition of her wildly popular text, The Book of Goddesses). Waldherr also has the interesting family history of having a maternal grandmother who was the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, and was rumored to have been born with the second sight. And in her spare time, she plays cello in the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra!
I started by asking Kris a few questions:
NAJ: How does it feel to be surrounded by your many works of art up here tonight?
KW: I’m glad to share my art with people outside the context of a book, so the paintings can be seen as they were originally created. As an artist who works in publishing, I’ve learned to accept that my paintings aren’t going to look the same when they’re printed — there’s always some details which are lost, some colors which don’t reproduce exactly. I’ve also enjoyed organizing the show — so much so that I want to share it outside of New York City. Right now, I’m working on having the show travel to other galleries around the country.
NAJ: And what it feel like to have the tenth year anniversary edition of The Book of Goddesses out?
KW: My two main emotions are amazement that it’s been ten years since the first edition was published — where has the time gone? — and pleasure at having The Book of Goddesses back in print, and in such a deluxe version. Abrams (the publisher) really did such a gorgeous job printing it. I especially love the gold ink on the cover, and gold Isis insignia on the binding. It’s much more of a book that the original edition, both in terms of expanded content and because of the beauty of the production.
I drank in the beautiful art at the show, all of which can be seen in the catalogue, Celebration of the Divine Feminine: The Mythic Art of Kris Waldherr. “Mythic art” sums this up aptly; if you are enchanted by myth, particularly where strong female characters — who may be mortal, and who may be divine — are at the center, the art will speak to you. Recurring themes include the myth Danae, daughter of a Roman king named Acrisius, who was foretold that one of Danae’s offspring would kill him, and the tale of Persephone, the daughter of Demeter who was kidnapped by the god of the underworld, Hades.
Some of the images in the artwork are also seen in Waldherr’s Lover’s Path Tarot. But the prolific Waldherr taxes my abilities of a reviewer to include my thoughts on this deck in this article. Hint — suffice it to say that I consult this deck regularly, and the link I provide gains you access to an online oracle featuring this deck.
Now to The Book of Goddesses. This gift book features 100 goddesses, all depicted in art and in words. The book is broken up into the fabulous feminine deities that oversee love, motherhood, creativity, strength and transformations. Those looking for a dose of inspiration need look no farther than the pages of this text. Already a classic, it has been improved on with the additional goddesses and the fine-tuning of the presentation of the graphics. Truly, it seems all cultures are represented and I even came across a Finnish house goddess I had never heard of — Haltia — as well as another Scandinavian goddess, this time a birth deity, who sorta bore my last name: Sar-Akka (note — akka means “hag” in Finnish).
All in all, a completely delightful evening was had in the company of a charming woman, with the souvenirs of two decidedly lovely books.
The Book of Goddesses:
A Celebration of the Divine Feminine
by Kris Waldherr
Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 2006
162 pp., $22.50
by Kris Waldherr
Art and Words Editions, 2006
75 pp., $25 (available only at kriswaldherr.com)