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Updated: 5 days ago

This is a pastel drawing of a masked woman in lingerie with a white spirit emerging from her navel.
The Descension 33"x66"Pastel over Paper by Isis Rodriguez


Parts of this blog are from my upcoming artist book, Isis Rodriguez: 21st Century Myth Painter, which will be launched in 2024. Get on our mailing list to obtain your copy!

I first discovered Ana Mendieta when I began my investigation of spiritual art in the early 2000's. The book, "Ana Mendieta Earth Body" by curator, Olga M. Viso from the Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden 2004, is a haunting example of an artist who died young exploring the depths of her own spiritual desires on the banks of all places, Iowa, an agricultural state that is not typically known for being a center of art. And yet this artist thrived, creating a body of work that makes me shiver and feel my ancestors rumbling around me.

When I was developing my archetype of a masked woman, in 2007, I stumbled upon this book which sucked me into her interpretation of the modern feminine divine in relation to the ancient. Suddenly, I saw a new feminist lexicon of rituals and the divine.

At the time, I was undergoing a big shift in my life. I was a disillusioned and deeply conflicted artist living in San Francisco California who was hit hard by the recession. I desperately wanted to find peace and harmony and found myself drawing a masked woman.

This is an image of Ana Mendieta covered in mud standing against a tree.
Tree of Life by Ana Mendieta 1976

The development of this woman was based on a personal mythology of a wounded woman protesting shame and in a process of self transformation. I was in an artist residency in Oaxaca Mexico at the time.

Death is a sacred occasion in Mexico. Five hundred years ago, funerals involved burials with dogs and other items which assisted the deceased into the the "inframundo", meaning "underworld", and sometimes they were given tasks to complete, in order to ascend into the heavens. Depending on how they died, and or their status, they could automatically ascend to the heavens without even entering the underworld. It's a complex journey which fascinates me in the redefinition of spiritual art.

The result was of a masked woman descending into the depths of her own consciousness, collapsing into a place called, "nepantla'", an ancient Aztec word that means "in the middle of it". This is her first step toward, healing.

The white cartoon is a spirit referencing a discovery of a child like moment which is why it emerges out of her umbilicus. In this case the cartoon is also a symbol of something new and imagined. It hasn't been formed yet, but is in the process of becoming something.

Torso drawing with a spirit emerging from the navel
Detail from the pastel drawing, The Descension

The lingerie is important because it designates a historical liberation of women's sexuality and comfort. Lady Duff-Gordon, a British fashion designer was a pioneer in developing lingerie to liberate women from their restrictive corsets. I think lingerie is women's intimate armor that protects her body from disease and is aesthetically pleasing to the eyes.

As I have explained in my other blogs, that the darkness has little to do with style and I use it conceptually to be her consciousness.

"The Descension" is available as Limited Edition Giclee Prints. The original is for sale and if you are interested, please contact me directly.

If you liked this blog, parts of this will be in my upcoming book, Isis Rodriguez:21st Century Myth Painter. Join our mailing list to obtain your copy!

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