Woman Releasing Birds
About 35 years ago Jean was driving on a winter prairie highway with sparrows eating gravel on the side of the road, scattering in front of the car as she approached. She had an image of a woman ripping her chest open and releasing birds from her heart. For years the image floated around, growing in its mythology, waiting for Jean to learn to paint in oil so that she could make it as large as the image in her mind. During those 35 years, the image took on complex meanings – one of women releasing the hidden parts of their lives, releasing shame over bodies and sex and babies that were and weren’t born; another of exposing the true self or opening the soul.
Jean has always thought Eve the heroine in the Garden of Eden and so included the snake as a companion, honoring the woman who had the courage to know more and see the truth. Snakes mean rebirth, transformation, healing, fertility and eternity. The grey dog is Jean’s Weimaraner and guardian, but also represents a grey wolf who appeared in a dream – with a beautiful thick coat but skinny, a beautiful but starved soul. The birds coming out of the heart represent the hidden soul, the secrets, the real emotions and experiences that are close to the heart. The grassland and sage are of the prairie, an open and barren – beautiful land. To the north the bluffs are the location of the Massacre of Blue Water Creek, but also the home of Lakota, early pioneers and modern day ranchers and farmers.
As guests view the painting, many have shared their interpretation of the woman, standing barefoot, the wind blowing her skirt and hair, growing the mythology. Please add your own story to hers.
*Thank you to John Hess for photos of flying birds used for reference and the Lewellen United Methodist Church for the use of the fellowship hall as a temporary studio.
* This image is copyright protected. Any duplication or photo of this work is NOT allowed without written permission of the artist.