“The one who drags the bones around. Who lets every skeleton have a dance.” - Dominique Christina
Last week I bought a copy of “Women Holding Things” by Maira Kalman, a New York City illustrator, designer and author. She describes the book as
“a love song to women
and at times everyone
(as exhausted as we all are
from holding everything)
it was born from a little booklet
made during the pandemic.
and then expanded upon.
with 86 paintings.
It’s chock full of paintings, poems, and anecdotes about all the things women hold... and hold onto. It’s a wonderful book to have on the coffee table and pick up with your afternoon tea for a few minutes of smiling with her almost folk-arty, sophisticatedly-unsophisticated paintings. It’s a book that makes me feel happy and joyful.
Not so with another book I’ve been reading on and off for several months. “This is Woman’s Work” by Dominique Christina is a hard book to get through on an emotional level, but well worth it if you are interested in working with feminine archetypes and are not afraid to do some inner exploration. It is a fabulous work that the author describes as “calling forth your inner council of brave, crazy, rebellious, loving, luminous selves”. (I feel like I am several of those things on any given day) Each chapter introduces a different archetype, some Jungian ones you will recognize and some she conjured herself. They begin with a poem followed by an essay and finish with exercises for the reader to further explore that archetype.
I was particularly smacked upside the head by Bone Woman, because she seems to be playing a peripheral role in my life these days.
“The Bone Woman is a swivel neck. Her eyes are keen on what is behind her. She will not leave it behind her. She pulls it up from where it is and sets it down on her lap. The one whose memories have been fashioned into nooses.”
- Dominique Christina
I felt a strong pull to create Bone Woman. Out of bones. I wish I had taken some process pictures, but you’ll just have to trust me that under layers of plaster and encaustic material, she has an actual spine made from bird vertebrae. (OK, turkey bones to be exact because I couldn’t bear to throw them away after making stock from the Thanksgiving bird. Because they were beautiful shapes and, you know, art supplies.) She’s wrapped herself in a cloak of her stories and carries a bundle of bones wrapped like a gift in her arms to share her chronic sorrow with anyone who will stop for a moment to look.
These two authors ask me to contemplate:
What do I hold?
What do I hold onto?
What do I need to let go?
Both books sound great! Love your "Bone Woman"!
First, is that your hair on her? She is beautiful.
Second. I love the idea of the questions. Oh - the answers that might spill out!
Reminds me of "Women Who Run With the Wolves" by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. I believe there's a bone woman archetype story in there. It's been a while since I read it but as I was reading your essay, I had a memory of a fisherman catching a skeleton woman... Also a great book!
Thanks for sharing her and everything else with us!