“Our Lady of the Shards”: Icons for the Buried and Rising by Lauren Raine MFA

Our Lady of the Midwives (2019)

When I became a feminist, I realized that somebody had to write all about this women’s art that was out there being totally ignored, and it was going to be me. And of course the ideas and the discoveries about what women’s art was……. I look at it for the information it gives me about women’s imagery, women’s psyches, women’s lives, and women’s experience.” 

 Lucy Lippard in Talking about Art Since 1976

I have been making art, masks, and theatre about “surfacing” for a very long time. As a child I was always digging at the roots of trees, fascinated by their interwoven strength, wondering how far down they went. That fascination never really left me. Sometimes it occurs to me that I and most of my colleagues are “spiritual archeologists”, sorting through artifacts and the mythic overlay of the past to re-discover and re-vitalize the present. I joined many of those colleagues for over 20 years:  un-earthing, re-inventing, and animating stories of the Great Goddess throughout world culture with the Masks of the Goddess Project (1999-2019), among other collaborations.  I am not religious, so much as I am a mythologist, following archetypal trails of myth back and back, seeking the sacred source they often reveal.

“Our Lady of the Midwives” is from a series of ceramic mosaics I eventually called “Our Lady of the Shards “. It began when I was idly sorting through a pile of discarded pottery shards at the Clay Coop where I sometimes work. Those shards, half buried in clay, became a mystery and a metaphor the longer I contemplated them. How might an archeologist feel, carefully sorting through fragments of lives long lost, long buried? It occurred to me that pottery shards are not “artifacts”, but pieces of lost stories.

Earlier that week I had cast the hands of a well-known Midwife who was retiring. She took what she called “the birth gesture”, creating a kind of portal with her hands. I imagined that among the shards of the past there might lie the stories of countless nameless Midwives who brought our ancestors into the world. Those women who skillfully greeted each soul as he or she emerged into life. We have many statues in public places honoring Generals who have won battles, military leaders who have assisted a great many souls to leave this world violently and usually in the prime of life. But I know of no statues that remember those who have brought lives into the world, the life bringers.

How might one piece their stories together again? I began to see many women emerge from the shards, women whose lives and stories were buried in the evolution of “his-story”. The forgotten Midwives, the Wise Women and the Weavers and Spinners, the Goddesses discarded or colonized in the long advance of patriarchal monotheism. The elemental and communicative Spirits of Place – “Numina” rising from the desert arroyos where they continue to sustain us or hidden in an overgrown sacred well. The Memory Keepers who hold the sustaining Water from Another Time that nourishes and informs the present?

The Memory Keeper (2020)

As I worked on the series, I decided to give my sculptures the contemplative quality of Icons or Shrines. I am also influenced by the many beautiful Catholic shrines I have seen in cathedrals in Europe. I especially love Halos, which are identified with sanctity, a timeless power emanating beyond the mundane. As Shrines, I invoke these faces, myths, and presences, arising from the clay and the stone into our troubled world – because their time has come. How might they help us, as we plunge into a future of ecological and social crisis? What might they say that we need to hear?

“Verity” (2022)
Hecate 2020

BIO: LAUREN RAINE is a cross-disciplinary artist and writer best known for her Masks of the Goddess Project, a collection devoted to worldwide mythologies of the Sacred Feminine that traveled to communities throughout the U.S. for over 20 years. She was resident artist at Henry Luce III Center for the Arts and Religion in Washington, D.C., received an Aldon Dow Creativity Fellowship, was Resident Artist for Cherry Hill Seminary, and recently received a Puffin Award for her “A Shrine for the Sixth Extinction” Project. Her work can be seen at:  http://www.laurenraine.com.

Categories: Divine Feminine, General, Goddess, Goddess feminism, Women and Art, Women's Spirituality, Women's Voices

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9 replies

  1. Lauren! I dreamt last night I was made of shattered pieces, and you post this! Will pm you xxxx Nigelle


  2. “The elemental and communicative Spirits of Place – “Numina” rising from the desert arroyos where they continue to sustain us or hidden in an overgrown sacred well. The Memory Keepers who hold the sustaining “Water from Another Time“ that nourishes and informs the present?”
    Nature has memory and numinous forces rise out of the earth…often we do not see or feel them but you have caught the essence of what is – such beautiful and meaningful art – at a time when we are cracking apart – the use of broken pieces – will this kind of act help heal what is broken? I do not know but I feel a force stirring when I see this kind of art. Thank you.


  3. These artworks are stunning beautiful. They bring into our conscious, physical world so many strands that we sense but can’t always name, people from the past whose presence we can feel but who we can’t visualize — but now with these artworks we can! I am reminded of the shards of dishes, medicine bottles, fruit essence bottles, and other broken pieces of the past that come up through the soil in my garden. My house and garden are 150 years old and apparently people tossed broken things there that now make their way up to the top of the soil with the rain and snow. Every time I pick them up and hold them I think of the women who lived in my house, who spent their lives in housework and childcare, experienced great tragedy and joy on this land, and who are now largely forgotten. Your work helps me understand the feeling of connection that these little shards bring, and helps us all reconsider the shards of many other past women’s lives together.


  4. As a Christo-Pagan this has to be one of my favorite posts here ever.


  5. Lauren, these are stunning. Wish you could do a gallery exhibit or these be the permanent decor of some glorious woman’s establishment….a spa, museum, temple, healing center, gallery, etc. You are so incredibly talented.


  6. I love the concept of “spiritual archaeologist . . . sorting through . . . mythic overlay of the past to re-discover and revitalize the present”. And the concept of a “mythologist following archetypal trails . . . back and back, seeking the sacred source”. That’s what it feels like I’m doing by re-framing the stories of Biblical women (which I hope to do more of here shortly). Do I attribute “spiritual archaeologist” to you?


  7. That is a great photo of you, love it! I especially like the midwife piece!




  8. Lauren,
    This is brilliant!
    How many of your works have I seen and admired? All of them!!!

    But these new pieces are over the top, just stunning.
    The shards, the textures, so much power and dignity in each one.

    I especially like the facial expressions you have given to Our Lady of the Midwives and The Memory Keeper; the serenity, plus, the lustre and light is just sublime!!!

    Thanks for your creations and thanks for sharing ;+]



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