excerpt from "The Benefit of Discord Apropos of Gender Battle"
Juan Vicente Aliaga
"A Batalla dos Xeneros (Gender Battle)," Centro Galego de Arte Contemporanea (CGAC), 2007
…This Is the option of some feminists who are fully or at least partially dissatisfied with the structural divide between nature and culture, which undoubtedly had repercussions in the seventies. To the extent that artists like Mary Beth Edelson, whose work was read from an essentialist point of view, reject this adscription. By essentialism we infer the hermeneutics that favour an interpretation of the female orb separated from the male orb and which operates according to its own laws deeply-rooted in nature and sexual sensitivity, which would be immovable." As her work incorporates certain iconography related to female deities one can interpret in this way. In this chapter of Gender Battle we can see Goddess Head, a photocollage, from 1975. It Is a photomontage in which you can see the top half of a body of which you can only make out the arms open in order to embrace or proclaim something and the breasts where the nipples have been painted to make the aureole bigger, and therefore, giving them a special emphasis. The head has been replaced by a kind of fossil curled up like a snail; the lower limbs are hidden Qy a rock. The visual ambiguity is clear: Is this deity a hybrid being, halfway between mineral and human? Set on a natural, equally rocky background, we are faced with a figure composed from a performance, a kind of ritual carried out by the artist in Long Island; needless to say this can also be exhibited in the "Between Myth and History" section.
The knowledge that some female gods had been worshiped and that they symbolise fertility as is the case of prehistoric Venuses (did they see some kind of power in them?), who were also the creators.of the cosmos, mothers who invented vegetation and organisers of life cycles, awakened a fascination among some artists. In. Mary Beth Edelson we can also observe the mark of Jung's theories": The emphasis in the universal' values, the collective unconscious, the celebration of the Iconography of different cultures. The interest in different deities and in the claim of the female role in ancient times and in mythical cultures led to the publication of a special edition of the feminist magazine HeresieS"', in 1978 dedicated to "The Great Goddess." This Is an Important publication that aimed to unite the relationship between feminism, art and politics. It Is a good idea to remember that in Its beginnings there was no presence of coloured women and lesbians had to make their voice heard among various obstacles.
What was the reason for this unieashed passion for mythological figures of various different cultural origins (Mesopotamia, Ancient Greece, India...)? On the one hand, It was a case of recovering the female presence in myth and history. On the other, emphasis was place on the matrilineal, on the diachronic feminine continuum. It was not only Mary Beth Edelson who immersed herself in the use of Images of Baubo, being associated with Demeter who symbolises laughter, and Sheela Na Gig, an exhibitionist figure from medieval times who appeared in convents, abbeys, and churches opening her vagina with her hands. What do these figures symbolise which have become known in the Irish cultural orb? Are they icons of fertility, an Image of the Celtic trinity, the protection or antidote against evil, a warning not to fall into the sins of the flesh?...