Tag Archives: Portraits

I Just Want To Have Fun!

In his 1991 pre-TED Talk  “talk”, John Cleese, of Monty Python fame, delivers countless “light bulb” jokes, all while detailing ways to foster creativity. The main take-away for me is that creativity is not a talent or ability. Creativity flows, Cleese believes, when you are in an open, expansive and relaxed state. And the more playful you are, the longer you can maintain this state.

To get into this “Open Mode” Cleese recommends these conditions:

Space: a secluded oasis of quiet where you are sealed off from the pressures of daily life
Time: limit the time in your space to a pre determined beginning and end
Time: allow yourself enough time to ponder before accepting your creative choice
Confidence: while you are experimenting, nothing is wrong.
Humor: humor is an essential part of spontaneity and helps get you into the Open Mode

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John Cleese also spoke of another condition that resonated with me. He recommends that your “play friends” be people you like and trust; individuals who will support and encourage you during your unedited exploration. Which brings me to Karen Lorre, actress, love goddess, and founder of Yummy Meditations. I met Karen serendipitously two years ago in a Santa Monica restaurant and immediately felt a divine connection. Several days later, an Aphrodite portrait emerged from the foamy waves of Malibu. (You can read about the making of her Goddess on Earth Aphrodite portrait here!). Karen inspires me deeply; she lives life with an abundance of joy, unconditional love and vibrant spontaneity. Her trust in me always fosters my creativity.

On a recent trip to Los Angeles, Karen and I mused about making another Goddess portrait. The result of our play time together is “Lila.” In the Hindu tradition, Lila is a way of describing our human reality and the result of spontaneous, divine play.

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On portraying Lila, Karen wrote;

When I look at the wildly innovative creativity that is in nature, I see how much this divine universe loves to play in new and fresh ways! Being playful allows me to be an open conduit for this unbounded, novel, ingenious divine, and feels fun, effortless, exciting, and full of laughter and wisdom! Being playful makes everything easy. Being playful brings out the best in me and in everyone I encounter. I love embodying the essence of Lila! I love you! ”

During the process of creating Karen’s Lila portrait, were John Cleese’s conditions present? Indeed they were. Our creative space was nestled in the magical Hollywood Hills, perched high above the din of Sunset Boulevard. The end time was pre-determined; we were going to a dinner party together AND the sun was setting! We gave ourselves extra time the next day once we had a clearer concept of the Lila image. Karen’s unconditional love and support gave me the confidence to try anything. And humor? Adorned with a tutu around her neck and a Mad Hatter’s hat floating on her head, our sense of humor was in full throttle.

Which reminds me; how many Goddesses does it take to screw in a light bulb? Answer: None….. they are already enlightened!

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Millennials; Celebrate Yourselves, Even When Others Don’t

Millennia’s have a bad reputation. The media tells us they are entitled, spoiled and in constant need of approval. But I agree with James Wolcott who wrote in this month’s Vanity Fair; “We may need millennials to remind us what we should have remembered from the 60s, that social change comes only once you stop playing charades.”

Many of the young women I have met are passionate to make this turbulent world a better place. I admit, as a photographer working at the intersection of the women’s movement and goddess spirituality I have both a skewed and limited perspective. And yet, those I do meet are fiercely committed to a wide range of issues; the environment, animal rights, social justice, water quality, women’s spirituality, gender equality and more. Smart and entrepreneurial, these young women are using a new set of skills – social media savvy and technical acumen – to trumpet their demand for change.

Meet one such woman, Kiri Laurelle Davis; a filmmaker and social activist; a change maker; an artist with a mission.

In 2005, 16-year-old Kiri directed a short documentary film entitled “A Girl Like Me“.  Kiri used her film to explore the standards of beauty being imposed on today’s black girls. This powerful, award winning film underscored the negative toll Eurocentric standards were having on African American young women, harming their self esteem, self-image and fundamental self worth. Not content to stop there, Kiri continued to fuse her passion for art and activism by creating the Just Us Project, a multi-media platform to actively address social justice issues through media, art and community outreach. Kiri’s first media piece under this new platform is Our Lives Matter, a public service announcement that poignantly focuses on the racial profiling of young black and Latino boys.

In Goddess on Earth, each portrait begins with the subject’s choice of a goddess archetype to embody, and emerges from a place to personal reflection. Prior to getting together in person, I had a pre-conceived idea of what Goddess Kiri would want to portray. She would be a fierce lioness; a warrior, a fiery spirit forging a new trail with her sword/ camera. In fact, during our early phone conversations, I misconstrued her words. Oya, a Yoruba Goddess of wind and destruction was the sacred myth I thought she said she related to.

Only hours before we were to meet, did she gently correct me. Oshun, the Yoruba Goddess of sweet waters and beauty was the archetype she wanted to portray for Goddess on Earth. Oshun, Kiri said, was a Goddess of love, a sensuous woman, flowing with joy and feminine sexuality. Oshun resonated with her.

Oshun is noted for her beauty, which I feel goes beyond skin deep. I know the beauty in my reflection represents a rich culture of strength, creativity and brilliance. My blackness is beautiful to me because it symbolizes a fierce determination and perseverance. It depicts my own style, grace and a regal beauty that stem from my own distinctive and unique roots. I come from a people who have been exploited, enslaved, dehumanized, stereotyped and continue to rise in spite of tremendous obstacles.

Creating “A Girl Like Me” helped me develop a newfound courage and understanding when it comes to beauty and self love. Like Oshun, who represents beauty, love and art, I have found a loving strength and confidence in myself.

“I no longer look for others to affirm me. I affirm myself. I define myself. And with my art, I want to help women and girls celebrate themselves — even when others don’t. ” wrote Kiri.

YES! YES! YES! How fabulous! How empowered! How inspired! Here is a young woman, confidently embracing her own magnificence and using art to help shift all of our standards of beauty. Here is a young woman, while celebrating the 10th anniversary of her formidable first film, is creating new work teeming with grace, love and beauty, that tackles one of the profound problems of our time – racial injustice and police violence. I am in a state of wonder. Let us pay attention. We have things to learn from this generation.

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My Mother’s Journey with Alzheimer’s: A Family Portrait

Greta and Herb Levart Meng Po / Goddess on Earth www.Goddessonearth.com

I haven’t seen the film “Still Alice” because my mother has Alzheimer’s disease.

While she slips away into the advanced stages of this ferocious illness, I can’t watch anything that illustrates the journey my family is on. Nonetheless, I applaud one outcome from the film; it is illuminating this “neglected epidemic”.

Maria Shriver in her recent piece “Help Me Wipe Out Alzhemer’s Now” shared these terrifying statistics:

“Every 67 seconds, another one of us develops Alzheimer’s. Women in their 60’s are about twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as breast cancer. With 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day, there will be 13.5 million of us with Alzheimer’s by 2050.”

And there is more: Alzheimer’s is “the most expensive disease in the nation and the only leading cause of death in the U.S. with no way to prevent, stop or even slow its progression” according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Now, add the enormous repercussions it has on the loved one’s families. If you really wrap your mind around this, it can take your breath away. That I can attest to.

First let me share a few of my tangible moments of beauty and grace while navigating this barbed path. I felt great joy watching my mother dance along the Hudson River as I photographed her as a Goddess; shared laughs when she emerged from her bedroom in an especially creative combination of clothes; experienced true love when her face lit up as I entered a room; let tears run down my cheeks as her kisses caressed the back of my hand; and believed my heart grew when I murmured “I love you” in her ear, moments before she fell asleep in her nursing home bed.

Alzheimer’s is having a crushing impact on my family as well. We see savings dwindle from paying for her constant care; careers put on hold to manage her daily medications, physical demands, and energetic wanderings (that often led to a visit with the local police); grandchildren no longer remembering her as the determined, fiercely positive woman she once was; and perhaps worst of all, her beloved husband of sixty-seven years, now guilt ridden and lonely because he can no longer care for her at their home for over half a century.

Greta and Herb Levart Meng Po / Goddess on Earth www.Goddessonearth.com

Five years ago, I photographed my mother (and father) for Goddess on Earth as Meng Po, the Chinese Goddess of Forgetfulness. This sacred myth tells us that as a soul prepares to be reborn, the Goddess Meng Po serves her tea of forgetfulness. Instantly cleared of the knowledge of past lives, Meng Po allows the soul to be made anew and the cycle of life continues.

My mother’s memory wasn’t purged in an instant but in a slow, relentless march toward oblivion. To accompany her Meng Po portrait she had written;

My memory is not what it used to be. I do forget and I do not remember everything. But my life is rich with daily, weekly, yearly experiences with my husband, my children, my grandchildren and my friends.”

Today, she would not even be able to write her own name. But she is still Greta.

Greta and Herb Levart Meng Po / Goddess on Earth www.Goddessonearth.com

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Women, Power and the Rule of Three

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My personal relationship with power is fraught with anxiety, self-doubt and fear of conflict. As a woman, I doubt I am alone in this, yet as I struggle with this confounding reality, I wonder what my ideal relationship to power should be?

As an artist with ancient mythology embedded in my DNA, I have examined this issue before. I have photographed prominent feminist leaders such as Gloria Feldt, (who portrayed the strong-willed Lilith, Adam’s first wife), and Starhawk (who portrayedMaeve, the Celtic Goddess of Sovereignty). Both women advocate re-envisioning women’s connection to power.

Other ancient myths reflect our contemporary relationships to power as well. Durga is a fearless Hindu Goddess who symbolizes power in all its forms. Durga — whose name means “invincible” — is a ferocious protectress against injustice and all human suffering. Traditionally she is depicted astride a tiger or lion: symbols of her unlimited power. Often illustrated with eight arms, her capacity for action speaks for itself. Durga also has three eyes: her left eye represents the desire to act, her central eye the capacity to follow through with one’s desires, and her right eye, action itself.

 

DURGA’S LEFT EYE REPRESENTS A STRONG FEELING OF WANTING, OR THE DESIRE TO ACT.

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I was introduced to Francesca Kelly this past summer on Martha’s Vineyard, and returned to photograph her several weeks later. Francesca is a pioneer rescuer of the Marwari, a rare and indigenous Indian horse breed. After a twenty year battle with the Indian Government to lift the export ban of the Marwari, Francesca and her partner Raghuvendra Singh Dundlod have helped resurrect this threatened breed.

 

DURGA’S CENTER EYE REPRESENTS THE CAPACITY TO FOLLOW THROUGH WITH ONE’S DESIRES.

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Francesca quickly identified with Sherawali, the warrior incarnation of Durga, and chose to portray her for the Goddess on Earth series. Surrounded by marshes on Chappaquidick Island, we created a commanding image of Sherawali. To accompany her portrait, Francesca wrote:

“It has been my privilege to be a key protagonist in the renaissance of the Marwari. The confidence to actualize ideals, to remain unimpeachable, to incorporate if you will, at the best of times, the qualities of Sherawali, is a battle and sacrifice all must experience.”

 

DURGA’S THIRD EYE IS ACTION ITSELF.

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Francesca’s embodiment of Sherawali in the photographs we created portray the symbolic trinity of Durga’s spiritual stages of power.

Far from being archaic, ancient symbolism continues to influence the necessary re-envisioning of feminine power. Durga demonstrates how modern women can use power in its multiple, generous forms as the manifestation of reflection, intent, and capability. Sherawali and Francesca are role models for contemporary women warriors (my conflicted self included) who are looking to add layers of empowerment to their lives. With mythical and ancient symbolism to guide me, I will continue to nurture my passions, practice and embrace tools for empowerment, and take action to achieve my desires.

(Francesca Kelly is seen with Sushil Kumar, a horse trainer and tent-pegger from Dundlod, India.)

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New Goddess Sketches

For the past decade, I have traveled throughout the world-photographing women embodying Goddesses. These Goddess Portraits have been a unique opportunity for women to explore, identify and celebrate an ancient archetype and its relevance to their contemporary lives.

Goddess Sketches condense the creative process to under 15-minutes, and was developed with conferences in mind. These quick portraits include a short consultation (Find Your Goddess) and a photo session in an on-site photography studio. Here is a taste of what can be co-created!

artemisA Cybele Goddess SketchesAnna_Gaia Goddess on Earth Mnemosyne Goddess Sketch Amelia Martin Eos Goddess Sketch

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The Real Goddesses of Essex County

Luna Stage, a professional theater in West Orange, New Jersey planned to honor three extraordinary women in their Essex County community during Women’s History Month. Galas, legacy lunches and award presentations are standard affairs for most non-profits, but Luna Stage was thinking outside the box. They chose instead to commission goddess portraits of their honorees.

To me, a goddess is a woman living her life with authenticity, passion and power. Inspired and inspiring, a goddess—on earth— speaks her truth and stands up for what she believes. A goddess on earth has vitality and is beautiful, not because her cheekbones are high, her waist is thin, her breasts are large or her wardrobe is current, but because she recognizes her inner divinity — imperfections and all.

Thus a theater, named for the artistic and spiritual importance of the moon in women’s lives, reached out to me: an artist who has spent the last 12 years exploring, identifying and celebrating ancient archetypes and their relevance to our hectic, contemporary lives. Was I interested in creating Goddess portraits of three empowered New Jersey women as their most beautiful and alive selves? Bada bing, bada boom. You betcha!

Suzzanne Douglas, award winning actress and jazz vocalist, is a fervent activist bringing creative expression into the educational system. Although widely known for her starring roles in the TV show The Parent’Hood, the Hollywood film How Stella Got her Groove Back and the Broadway show The Tap Dance Kid, amongst others, her driving passion now is working with schools to help them incorporate the arts into their curriculum. To Suzzanne, the arts are a critical tool for children to learn a fundamental life lesson she herself embraces: “One must live life on purpose with a purpose.”

For her portrait, Suzzanne chose to embody Minerva, the Roman Goddess of wisdom, whose symbol is an owl. Minerva is also considered warrior goddess; a protectress of the arts; and an overseer of intellectual activity.

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Suzzanne wrote:

“Like Minerva, I have always considered myself a guardian of the arts — one who advocates, protects and cares for the many forms of creative expression that inform and influence humanity. The late Jimi Hendrix said, “Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.” From my work in front of and behind the scenes, wisdom drives me to approach all tasks with a spirit of excellence knowing that the arts have the power to change humanity and thus our world”.

Cameron Boyle, along with her daughter Giovanna, has run a small NGO namedCRIANSA (the Portuguese word for child) in two fishing villages in Brazil for the past 10 years. Based on the simple premise of connecting children through a decade long pen pal exchange, CRIANSA has built lasting bonds between children in these remote villages south of the Equator and students in affluent Montclair, New Jersey. By fostering deep friendships between these diverse communities, CRIANSA is planting seeds of transformation, one child at a time.

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Cameron and Giovanna chose to portray the Brazilian Goddess Iemanjá for theirGoddess on Earth portrait. They wrote:

“We are a symbiotic mother-daughter incarnation of Iemanjá, the Afro-Brazilian Goddess of the sea. After working closely together in Brazil over the last ten summers, Iemanjá has infused us with a mutually maternal and nurturing spirit. She gives us her vision, inspiration and the ability to flow smoothly through life’s torrential times.”

Diana Moise is a 12-year-old middle school student who came to Essex County after her home was destroyed during the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. 2014-02-24-Erzulie_GoddessonEarthA.jpgShe has struggled with language barriers and has had to overcome multiple surgeries for scoliosis, but her inner fortitude is apparent to all. When deciding what sacred myth most resonated with her, Diana commented with the heartfelt confidence of a pre-pubescent girl that Erzulie, the Haitian spirit/goddess of women “is beautiful — and so am I”.

Minerva, Iemanjá, and Erzulie remind us there are many ways to live inspired lives of authenticity, passion and internal power. Some women embrace their intellect; others connect with their communal, nurturing spirit; and others innately know how to dig deep into their own personal wells of strength. What an honor it is to have been commissioned to create goddess portraits of these exceptional women. Please join me in celebrating them, and all the remarkable women we know, in as many creative, inspired and unique ways as there are goddesses on earth.

Goddess on Earth: Women of Essex County, a multimedia immersion installation, opens March 8th at Luna Stage, West Orange, N.J. and runs through May 11th. Please visit www.lunastage.org for viewing hours.

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Embracing the Darkness of Winter Solstice

Darkness comes early as Solstice draws near. Lights are lit in windows, on trees, inside houses and along streets. We seek their comfort and warmth during these short days and long nights. The last month of the calendar is here and we eagerly anticipate the rebirth of a new annual cycle. We make merry during this time and yet, there is also an opportunity to acknowledge and honor the darkness: the darkness outside and the darkness within.

Love, bliss and joy. Fear, anger and rage. All of these are part of being human. Positive and negative make a whole. Without our darkness, we are incomplete.

“I must also have a dark side if I am to be whole,” Carl Jung wrote.

Susun Weed, shamanic herbalist, author and teacher, doesn’t run from her dark side — she embraces it, using it to help others make changes in their lives, to become more authentic and more powerful as women. For 35 years, Susun has been a ferocious advocate for women’s health. Her five books, the Wise Woman Herbal Series — including titles on childbearing, menopause, breast health and sexual/reproductive health — are treasured by millions of women worldwide. Susun shares her encyclopedic knowledge of herbs and health through her website and workshops at her Wise Woman Center in Woodstock, New York and throughout the world.

Little did I know that when I contacted Susun to participate in Goddess on Earth, I was to also learn a powerful lesson.

The Goddess does not only embody light, joy and nurturing love. In her other aspects — as Durga, Ereshkigal and Guabancex to name just a few — she is a Goddess of unbridled rage who follows no rules. She is a warrior who takes no prisoners and who demands that we confront the darkness within, the parts of ourselves that are not kind, pretty or nice.

For Goddess on Earth, Susun chose to portray Baba Yaga, a terrifying female shaman from Slavic mythology. Ancient, wise and fierce, Baba Yaga lives in a hut that stands on chicken legs and which twirls like an ecstatic dancer. Baba Yaga flies with the wind and frightens many, but she helps those who approach her with courage and truth. In the book Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes, “Baba Yaga is fearsome, for she is the power of annihilation and the power of the life force at the same time.”

Susun and I met in upstate New York on what turned out to be a bitterly cold, wintery day. During the photo session, her uncompromising stance and piercing gaze brought shivers down my spine. Like Baba Yaga, Susun is a formidable life force.

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“I have nothing to lose: age has taken it all from me and revealed my true treasures… I am surely the most fearsome thing ever seen, ever imagined. A powerful old woman at home with herself,”

Susun wrote to accompany her Baba Yaga portrait in Goddess on Earth.

In this season of dwindling light, let us turn inwards and connect with the most enduring parts of ourselves: the parts with the courage and tenacity to weather cold winters and all of life’s challenges. Age-old, unapologetic and fierce, Susun and Baba Yaga are inspiring figures who remind us that there is no time for petty distractions like Being Pretty or Being Good or Being Nice. It’s time to get on with the real work of becoming real, becoming women of power, becoming complete. We are not just light but dark, not just pretty but awesome, not just smiling but weeping, shouting, raging, fearsome. Baba Yaga reminds us to reclaim those dark places where our real treasures lie. In this way, we become whole.

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A Season for Gender Equality

For everything there is a season. In some parts of the world, Fall means bringing in the crops and returning to the abundance of the harvest. In urban cities across America, though, it’s time to attend conferences, workshops and symposiums! Last month, I even participated in two different NYC events in one day, the WIE Symposium (Women: Inspiration & Enterprise) and the Women’s Leadership Summit. Both conferences brought together dynamic women speakers that inspired the attendees to embrace their power and be forward-thinking leaders. While these goals were surely met, I heard another message as well: gender equality is stagnating.

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According to a recent study by the International Monetary Fund and the topic of an articlein Al Jazeera America, “gender equality around the globe has stalled in recent years, with women still holding fewer salaried jobs than men and receiving lower wages for their work.”

Why is gender parity so hard to achieve? The writer Tabby Biddle addressed this question in the United Nations Dispatch with her column “UN Leaders: Are You Thinking Enough About Gender Equality?” Tabby wrote: “As a global culture, so many of us have internalized the maleness of God, or Allah, or Buddha, that we have undervalued or dismissed our feminine nature… If we don’t nurture the fullness of life within us — the feminine and the masculine — this will stunt our growth not only as individual human beings, but also collectively as a global civilization“.

The belief that God is male has underscored human civilization for thousands of years, and we see evidence of that in the countless images of God the Father and in language that describes God as “He” and humankind as “Man.” I believe that as long as our society focuses primarily on male images of the divine, humanity’s imbalance will continue unresolved. This is why I am driven to create photographs of contemporary women portraying the Divine Feminine: to restore to public consciousness images of women in their power, diversity and undeniable embodiment of what is sacred.

While traveling in Morocco this past summer, I met Vanessa Bonnin, a journalist and photographer living in the ancient city of Fez. Although born in Australia, Vanessa has worked in Morocco for many years. For Goddess on Earth, she chose to embody the pre-Islamic earth Goddess Al-Lat. Known as “the Mother of the Gods,” Al-Lat represents the earth and its bountiful fruits. One of the three chief Goddesses of Mecca, her shrine and temple in the city of Taif was destroyed on the orders of Mohammad in 630 AD.

On choosing to portray Al-Lat, Vanessa wrote:

Living in Fes, the religious heart of Morocco, I see the daily evidence of female subjugation by men and Al-Lat is essentially the first female who was subjugated by Islam. I connect with her spirit on a number of levels, the primary one as an Earth Mother who represents fertility. I feel that being in tune with the earth — which gives birth to all that sustains us — is vital to life, well-being and our collective future.

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If we can all look at the Divine through both a feminine and masculine lens, contemporary women will be one step closer to reclaiming an internal sense of personal power, for indeed to everything there is a season: a time to plant, and a time to uproot what has been planted. In restoring the female vision to our modern conception of the sacred, I hope we can uproot from our collective consciousness the idea that access to the Divine only comes through masculine channels — and in doing so, we may plant the seeds of political, social, and spiritual equality for future generations.

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How Facebook Censored Our Sheroes

Until June 12, Facebook classified nude photographs of women who had undergone mastectomies as pornographic. This standard protocol was reconsidered after Facebook received an angry petition, with more than 20,000 signatures, concerning their censorship of the SCAR Project page. Under pressure, Facebook revised its policy toward these unflinching images of cancer survivors, but a wound still remains.

According to Decision Resources, an industry analysis group, 458,000 women worldwide die annually from breast cancer and more than 100,000 women in the U.S. undergo mastectomies each year. Angelina Jolie put a celebrity face to this crisis and fostered an important dialogue about the painful choices women must make when confronted with the specter of cancer. Unfortunately, most women must also fight this mortal battle while painfully confronting the cultural perception that their bodies are no longer attractive.

Of course, Facebook is not the only arena where women’s bodies are intensely sexualized. The media collectively spreads the message that “a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality” as expertly demonstrated by Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s filmMiss Representation. My personal mission for the Goddess on Earth series is to show commanding images of contemporary women in all their diversity and power, and contribute to the much needed shift in our society’s limited portrayal of women. The participants in the series are empowered and validated by letting their deepest selves be truly seen by others. In turn, by observing humanity in all its variety, we the viewers become awakened to our commonality and interconnectedness.

Sherry Lawson was born and raised in the Appalachian Mountains and is now a therapist. I met Sherry at the Where Womyn Gather conference in Pennsylvania this past June. While attending a workshop I led on Goddess archetypes, Sherry found that Lilith most resonated with her life’s path. In Jewish and Christian mythology, Lilith was Adam’s first wife and was created, like Adam, from the earth. She saw herself as his equal and refused to be submissive to him, choosing instead to flee the Garden of Eden. Seventeen years after being diagnosed with stage IV cancer, Sherry connected with Lilithʼs struggles, fierce independence and personal conviction.

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On choosing to portray Lilith for her Goddess portrait Sherry said:

“In 1996, they told me I had stage IV breast cancer. The doctors and many others including my partner seemed to think I was going to die, but I hadn’t made my mind up yet. I went to the mountaintop and fought for my life, like a mama bear protecting her cubs. I identify with Lilith because against all odds, she stood her ground”.

With the defiance of Lilith, Sherry’s triumphant stance and unapologetic display of her body confront our cultural narrative on what it means to be female and beautiful. I share Sherry’s photograph and story with you in part because she wants her life lessons and scarred body to be heard and yes, seen. Her integrity and dignity in the face of life’s struggles command our full attention. She draws us into a contemplation of strength and vulnerability, beauty and scars and in her image, I hope, we can find deeper insight into what it means to really be whole. So with an open heart, I urge us all to validate her journey together and see where this courageous shero will take us.

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Aphrodite’s Love

Last month, in an attempt to escape the last legs of this dreary New York winter, I went to Los Angeles in search of sunlight. I found light, warmth and stunning flowers in vibrant colors — but most surprisingly, I found love.

“Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow; a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them — we can only love others as much as we love ourselves,” wrote the researcher and author Brené Brown in her book The Gifts of Imperfections. Love, according to Ms. Brown, is nurtured through interpersonal connections and allowing our authentic selves to be deeply seen and known.

Serendipitously, this kind of connection began at a neighborhood restaurant in Santa Monica. There I met Karen Lorre, a television actress. She chose to sit next to me at a large communal table, and we immediately began talking, finding mutual ties and a common philosophy toward life. The synchronistic bonds, however, were just a starting point. The joy for life that flowed from Karen seemed to vibrate around the room. Like a radio signal on a high frequency, I was getting the message loud and clear: A Goddess portrait was being born!

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Several days later, when asked what sacred myth she most resonated with, Karen revealed she felt aligned with two Goddesses, White Tara, the Tibetan Goddess of compassion, healing and serenity, and Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of love. Both had deep meaning for her, but love won out.

The women I photograph for the Goddess on Earth series are extraordinary in their willingness to be entirely wholehearted and open to experiencing the playfulness of co-creating. In turn, I feel deeply honored by their belief in me and empowered by their trust. My internal work during any photo shoot is to get out of my own way, and let the joy flow, secure in the knowledge that all is well. I now realize that during this creative process, love is being nurtured. I’m sure this is why I feel my happiest, most alive self when I am making a Goddess portrait.

Aphrodite, who in Greek mythology arose from the foam of the elemental waters, celebrates love and sexuality as an embodied divinity. She helps us cultivate sensuality, and the desire to live in harmony with the natural world. On my last day in California, we created Karen’s Goddess portrait on a beach in Malibu under the blanket of soft grey clouds.

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On choosing to portray Aphrodite, Karen wrote:

“I know love is our true nature and an infinite supply flows into us from this divine universe if we allow it. We allow it by focusing on what we appreciate and what makes us happy. Seeing wellbeing in everyone and everything is pure love. Seeing wellbeing in everyone and everything is pure fun! “

Blessed be!

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