Anna Is Woman Is the Earth Is a Garden

Anna Is Woman Is the Earth Is a Garden

I was asked to write about this sculpture by a reviewer, and I did despite my reluctance to analyze my own work. Here is my statement; his notes follow.

The Garden of St. Anna

This sculpture is a response to the whole of the text of “Description of The Garden of St. Anna”, by Theodore Hyrtakenos. The art piece illustrates both Anna and her garden, conflated.

Also present: Eve * Mary * Earth * hope * classical myth * sorrow * potential * order * care * Catholicism * “my vagina is my village….” * tears * peace * crucifixion * motherhood * childlessness * Mona Lisa’s smile * fertility * womankind * womanhood * the triumph of eternity over mortality * gifts we give the world * grace * the life force * clay * “ the unbearable lightness of being” * love of life * love of God * love of this planet * passivity * cloister * voicelessness * refuge * prophecy * hell * spirit * abandonment * resignation * prison of mind * prison of body * peril * deliverance *beauty * the stations of the cross * shrine * sainthood

Some visual cues were taken from the following passages.

“She only frequented one of the neighboring estates (this estate was a garden) and conversed with God in solitude.”

“The trees were sufficiently stripped of stems in their trunks, and from there grew straight so that they shot up in an upright foliage shaped like a cone …… and so that the intermediate space be neither too much or too little, avoiding both too long and too short a distance.”

“At one point there was as a landmark a fountain that could both reserve water and gush it forth …….. as many jets of water as there are veins. Rather they flowed as if streams of tears ……then with great enjoyment drew off to the plants for irrigation.”

“Immediately after the chorus of cypresses there were several other choruses of all kinds of trees ………. neatly arranged according to its kind and species and knew how to differ in only one thing: further behind was more elevated, while the one on the inner side would always be somewhat lower ….”

“For the face of that land was richly painted and variously ornamented, as nothing else, since all the seasonable harvests yielded everywhere had assembled there together, as if at a signal.”

“ a river of eternal fire and the flame of hell as a resting place”

“ …. in distress of both soul and heart, she uttered such pitiful cries to God ….. since I have reached such an age I should either become a mother or depart from among the living!”

“ But I proclaim to you to have courage, Anna! ……. The archangel Gabriel who knows how to release the fetters of barrenness, is near. …….Know the interpretation of your name: Anna is Hellenized as grace, and by becoming Hellenized, it is ennobled. For grace will not give birth to grace, as they say, but to the mother of all graces and the one who filled our nature with grace, that is, the graceful Mother of God and mistress of both angels and humans.”

Other elements are metaphoric and represent Anna’s emotional and spiritual state, among other ideas.

Layers of imagery:
* trees of the garden – corona – halo – veil Anna – Eve – Earth – every woman gated walled * garden – shrine – body/self
* river of eternal fire – blood of menstruation – blood of sacrifice flowers – ovaries – genitals – fertility
* candles – grace – sunlight – Christ, the light of the world
* water – prayer – absolution – tears


Anna Is Woman Is The Earth Is A Garden
Notes by Kenneth Helphand

Have you seen Susan Griffin’s Women and Nature?
If not go get it.

I appreciate your disclaimers and that you do explain it, which of course still leaves much to the viewers’ interpretation. Your explanation and stream of consciousness is very helpful and evocative in its own right (write).

I am struck by how this could also easily be an illumination of the Song of Songs – I would have thought that if I was given a choice. For the emphasis on body/garden relationships and image are strong and filled with layers (literal and figurative) of symbolism and meaning.

As an artpiece I love the mixture of materials which have their own quality, but it is “mostly” “craft” materials, that are ennobled in the process.

So what else do I see?
I see the balls as light – the garden and the gate as illuminated. I wonder about the mannequin and what that means – disembodied? fashion?
I am interested in a metal gate that has weavings in it.
It reads as a shrine – with these artifacts left at the gate. (I was in London for Diana’s funeral.)

Fine, fine work.

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