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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Coeur d’Alene art show explores ‘sacred feminine’

By Audrey Overstreet For The Spokesman-Review

Launching an art show exploring the “sacred feminine” has rarely seemed more relevant, say several local artists taking part in the second annual exhibition by the Goddess Art Series Project, or GASP!

Maybe that’s why submissions to participate in GASP!, opening Friday at Emerge Gallery in Coeur d’Alene, more than doubled this year, from 60 to 139.

“A lot of women are in a place of disappointment right now, and feeling insulted and a bit oppressed,” said artist Janelle Cordero, an English professor at Spokane Community College. Cordero will display her work at GASP! along with more than 30 other Coeur d’Alene and Spokane area artists.

“This show gives us a chance to celebrate feminine power and what it means to exemplify a goddess in our modern life today,” Cordero said.

GASP! co-founder Lisa Koep believes that embracing the sacred feminine, as this show does, could make the world a better place.

“Women are rising together, with strength and purpose, standing up for what they see as simple humanity, compassion, consideration, understanding, empathy and tolerance for all,” Koep said. “Our willingness to be vulnerable is an example of our courage, and the Goddess Art Series Project is a means for us to express those qualities.”

Cordero’s piece “Bastet,” named after the Egyptian goddess, explores the qualities of the female form. It’s an ink and watercolor drawing of a woman’s body. The pose is universal, restful, but seemingly put together from pieces, or segmented parts. It shows the complexity of being a woman, of the many parts that come together to form the whole person.

“Being fragmented is not only the state of being female, it’s the state of being human,” Cordero said.

Among other things, the GASP! show explores humankind’s need to become whole again by overthrowing the repressive patriarchy and reclaiming the sacred feminine. The belief is that not only is our spiritual health at stake, but also the well-being of our planet.

As Sufi mystic and author Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee said, “Our ecological devastation points to a culture that has forgotten the sacredness of the earth and the divine mother, as well as denied the feminine’s deep understanding of the wholeness and interconnectedness of all of life.”

Coeur d’Alene artist Tarin Leach, program director for St. Vincent de Paul’s Art on the Edge nonprofit for children, has two pieces in this year’s GASP! exhibition. One is a sculpture of Mother Earth, pregnant and hanging by a noose. It represents how society is murdering our planet with pollution and neglect.

The other piece is a screenprint depicting a woman with chains locked around her and a definition of the feminine, which, according to Leach, means “those having the ultimate obedience of self.”

“It’s about people trying to tell you what you should be or how you should act,” said Leach, who considers herself a “social sculpture artist” seeking to use art as a tool for political revolution.

“I was a single mom for much of my college years, and my ex would say you are not acting woman-like … My parents or his parents would say I needed to do certain things to be correct,” Leach said. “I started to realize that once you have worked to gain knowledge, and delved deeply into your own understanding of what you believe and who you want to be, you don’t need others’ ideas forced on you; you are obedient to yourself.”

GASP! is more than an annual exhibit, it also offers a series of monthly classes with local artists who use mixed media sculpting, painting and collaging, to focus on different aspects of the sacred feminine. There has been a body image workshop using Barbies, journal-making, and this year, there are plans for a knitting workshop creating the famous pussyhats, knitted knockers (Titbits) and knitted uteruses (The Snatchel Project), taught by local artist Lori Whalen, of Mountain Girl Fiber Arts.

The GASP! show, which will run through March 4, is a call to arms for some and celebration for others.

“There’s so much political regression going on that it’s hard to talk about progress at this moment,” Leach said. “What’s cool is that there are organizations like GASP! and galleries like Emerge that are supporting the younger generation. I think that’s awesome.”

For Cordero, going to see art is as important as making it. “Activism doesn’t necessarily have to be protest, it can be celebration of things that are going right,” Cordero said. “If you are feeling frustrated or disheartened about the direction we are going, seeing this show can give you a chance to celebrate feminine power, unity and harmony.”