Emotional Labor by Bronwyn Merritt in the Nicholson Gallery

Opening Reception: Friday, February 14th
From 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

Emotional Labor: Modern Goddesses for Modern Problems
Recent works by Bronwyn Merritt

In 2015, I began a series of paintings I called “Giving Goddesses”, which were inspired by a parable I heard about the open-handed gesture of giving and receiving, and the spirit of that gesture as lifelong practice.

These figures (starting with works like the Santa Francisca) began a chain of works that culminated in these Goddess paintings. The early figures are characterized by a kind of un-self-conscious distraction, innocence and lightness. Images such as the Flower Goddess, were more about color, beauty and innocence than anything much deeper. As I thought more about what the women represented for me, I gave them responsibilities and powers, like the Vessel Keeper and the Spirit Weaver. (The Peace Messenger and The Sacred Librarian were also in this group, now in a private collection). They depicted women I saw as powerful, embracing both craft and spirituality as caretakers and makers, like the real women I admire. Later additions included the Maker, the Mathematician and the fanciful Time Spinner. I liked the idea of Goddesses as caretakers of sacred objects as well as concepts.

Eventually the Chaos Goddess concept emerged: large and in charge of everything, embracing all challenges and maintaining a peaceful equanimity, unfazed by the chaos of everyday life. They moved from a three-quarter pose to a frontal position, and the gesture of the open hands became more graphic, forceful and a focal point of each work. The figures became larger so the hands could be more prominent, and heart-shaped, echoing the “seeing heart” icon. It first appeared in the Original Chaos Goddess, and is now a part of my personal iconography, signifying compassion. Rather than a bombardment of random objects, the chaos is now conveyed with symbols– keys, coins, books, the broom– and the power of the Goddess is conveyed by the figure, her stature and her compassionate presence.

Exhibition runs February 1st-29th, 2020