Batya Weinbaum /2005
b. 1952

Listed: Who's Who of American Women, Pioneer Feminist of America


I have been working as an artist for a number of years. I began painting from the Hawaiian myths in the eighties when doing fieldwork in Maui and the Big Island. This work has been shown in numerous galleries on the Big Island and in Buffalo, NY as well as Cleveland, OH and Northampton, MA.

I continued my field work in Mexico on Isla Mujeres, which means island of women, painting from the Maya goddesses of fertility, safe birth and conception and then other Maya female deities. My exploration of these myths appeared in a monograph from University of Texas Press in 2000, Islands of Women and Amazons: Representations and Realities. This research is used in seminars at Dartmouth, Harvard, and other universities.

Earth Goddess
$400 26x34 acrylic

In my most recent work, I have been painting from archaeological drawings of the goddesses of Europe, India, and Indonesia, as well as from popular icons of Hindu goddesses collected in India and Indonesia, particularly Java and Bali.

While painting, I have been in a process of reclaiming my own inner strength, as well as that of the goddesses I paint. The more I paint, the more the paintings speak to me; the goddesses seem to shine with light, making suggestions as to what colors and materials I might add to further bring their messages through to this world. Sometimes this includes finding some ways to integrate who I am into my depictions of who they are, so the boundaries between myself and the goddesses might merge by inclusion of photographs of me, lines I have discovered in ancient texts about them, or snatches of my own poetry.

Remover of Sorrows
48x30 acrylic, feather, rose, bead

(click image)

Durga on Her Tiger
30x48 acrylic, ribbon, fern, pearl, feather, shell, deer horncarving, sticker star, petal

(click image)

Durga Riding Poetry
36x48 acrylic, latex, pearl

My paintings evolve over a long period of time. The process is largely intuitive. The collection of images occurs over a number of years of research and travel. Then I do small sketches from the drawings and icons that I collect. Next I paint from those sketches. Then I enlarge the painted sketches electronically so I can more closely examine the layers of colors. Then I paint larger canvases, usually in acrylic, from the enlargements of the watercolors.

Dancing Girl Shards
24x18 acrylic

48x48 acrylic, shell, feather, rose

At this point, I begin to explore more creatively with texture, and anything goes. Any number of objects from my daily life might wander in—the pine cones on the walk between my studio and my house, the beans in the cabinets in the kitchen, the newspaper clippings I make in the doctor’s office while waiting for a mammogram.

Hindu Goddess of Food

36x36 acrylic, bean, rice

Kali: Destroying Negative Emotion
30x30 acrylic, feather, rose, news

In the largest and final versions, I usually do multi-layered assemblage including mediums beyond the paint such as roses, shells, ribbons, pine cones, ferns, feathers, pearls, jewelry, photographs, newspaper clippings, playing cards, beads, coins, beans and rice.

Ancient Winged Hittite Goddess
acrylic, rose, feather

Transformer of Poisons
acrylic, rose, bead

Yogini in Detroit
acrylic, latex, jewelry

Rata Kidul
acrylic, shell, jewelry, water

When a particular message has been coming through, I work with this image several times, varying colors, background, emphasis and meaning. Usually each time I paint the background that is to be built up, the image becomes more abstract. The colors that I use start off with what I used in the initial watercolors, but change with what speaks to me from the canvas and the studio that day. I also experiment with different textures of the same paint, squeezing directly from tubes.

Durga Destroying Demon
11x14 acrylic

As a twenty first century American feminist painting Durgas in my backyard, I create different Durgas than a contemporary female Hindu practitioner in Varanasi might. Yet, in showing my art to people in shows or booths at street fairs, festivals and conferences I am teaching to a more secular audience. I sell traditional representations of the goddesses along with my own work, bridging the culture gap and hence “bringing the goddess home.” By talking with people and seeing their responses, I get a sense of what works, and what further people might need to know to bring some of the inner light of this goddess wisdom to a broader audience. Sometimes I use abstract expressionism; sometimes I use comic book cartoon techniques to resonate with popular culture. When I taught my students to perform the Descent to Inanna, I saw some strength derived from the reclamation of ancient representations of female divinity even if transhistorically and cross culturally. And the world does need the reintroduction of female strength whatever it takes to liberate such energy at this time. Like the ancient Byzantine painters of icons, I aim to express the spiritual reality of the symbolic forms with which I work. I meditate, pray, chant, and burn incense and candles as I paint.

So enjoy. Contact me to invite me to speak, teach, or do a show. The images are also for sale as originals or archival prints.

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1610 Rydalmount Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118 USA

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Artist bio:

Batya Weinbaum, an archetypal theorist, received her undergraduate degree from Hampshire College; her Masters in American Studies at SUNY Buffalo; and her Ph.D. in an interdisciplinary American Studies Program housed in a Department of English at University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She has been Artist in Residence at University of Illinois Champaign and Urbana, and has taught and lectured at numerous institutions of higher learning including Union Theological Seminary, Vermont College, Burlington College, Cleveland State University, University of Michigan, University of California at Santa Cruz and Berkeley as well as The Hague in the Netherlands. She founded and edits the journal Femspec, and has also exhibited photography in Boston and New York City. Her fabric arts have been sold in Maui, the Big Island, Florida, Ohio and New York through Red Serpent Arts. She has published four books and over 250 scholarly articles, short stories, poems, popular essays, photographs and reviews in a variety of venues.