The definition of ‘cosmogony’ is related to the beginning or origin of the universe. In the context of this exhibition, the word is utilized as the beginning or start of this created pantheon of works, c. 1999-2005. The exhibit operates on three basic levels. The interrelationship of art, religion and the style or technique of execution.

Frida - Chris BahrThe body of work is a multicultural, multi-sensory exploration into the world of a created mythology utilizing self-portraiture as the glue that binds the goddesses of art history and religion together. Having always been interested in myth, symbol and the meaning of our origins as well as what various societies have in common in these realms as well as artistically, I used these ideas to syncretize my vision.

The series of paintings is representative of the fusion of art historical feminine divinities in the Western Christian world, particularly. the Virgin Mary, merged with the ideologies and Órísa of the Yoruba (African) world, incorporating their travel across the world to Haiti, Cuba, South America, and the American South, with the people who were transported to be enslaved on plantations in these countries. These divinities were goddesses of many persuasions, two of my favorites, which are represented in this exhibition are Ezili or Erzulie Freda, the goddess of love, and Yemaya or Yemoja, the goddess of the sea.

I found the interrelationship of these goddesses and the cross-cultural references to be uncanny and the fodder of my imagination in this series. Offshoots of Yoruba religion in the New World – Vodun and Santeria – were an inspiration in these work, not only the ideologies but also the style and technique, notable in the use of beads, glitter, found objects and sequins. The shiny objects represent to me hope in a world that was oppressive.

I aspire to utilize self-portraiture in this same vein: the portrait/nature divinity/religious feminine symbolism to create or fuse the elements of beauty in nature/art/religion behind the mask of the maker. In combining ideologies and formulating my own cosmogony through layers of myth, meaning, techniques, materials utilized historically in Western art historical frames of reference, that is, representational painting embellished with the Southern hemispherical techniques of beads, found objects and a variety of shiny things, I hope to create a sacred space for contemplation.

As a female artist employing techniques often seen as women’s work, the obsessive working of a surface in beads and sewing patterns and merging these with the traditional masculine style of representational or classical style, I hope to create a cosmogony or universe of ideas and a space for supplication that is neither masculine nor feminine, Western or Southern Hemisphere but a syncretized vision that is a place for supplication, protection, a place to further knowledge, and generally to meditate in this temporary sanctuary created by a phalanx of portable altars exploring the natural world through the lens of the feminine divine.

Chris Bahr
2010