marlene mountain
painting series 1 '39'
exhibition statement


I had not painted in ten years nor anticipated doing so--and, yet in February I was painting. When I left off I had been painting large red and green geometrical shapes inspired by windows; those paintings were strictly formal, I refused any symbolic readings of them. Therefore, I was surprised not only by my reawakened desire to paint, but by my new attitude toward content. This content seemed to emerge from reading about the female body and the patriarchal myths imposed upon it/her and about the moon goddesses and the interpretations through the ages by those who, rather than celebrating the mysteries and strengths of the goddesses, denigrated and labeled them evil. I attempted to confront these attitudes in painting by developing a female shape, explicit yet abstract, and exploring certain qualities of the moon.

Accustomed to phallic symbols, I was impressed by the potential of a new shape, and, following that, new symbols and formal relationships. The early paintings--on reflection the paintings seem to be divided into and flow through three phases--are primitive and searching: what is a female shape? what is woman's relationship to the moon? what is fascinating about Ishtar menstruating during the full moon? what is the difference between pornography (exploitation) and female inquiry about females? if men can paint phallic art, and do so comfortably, cannot women paint yonic--certainly not a house/art-hold term--art comfortably? is there a woman's art?

Throughout the first phase I was self-conscious about the new subject matter--and all its implications--but was determined to explore it and see where the process took me. After all, men have painted, sculpted and written about the female body for thousands of years and it has become imperative that women--as Judy Chicago and others are doing--have a say in what we are about physically and spiritually. ('OUR BODIES, OUR SELVES!')

The second phase continued an inquiry into the relationship of woman to moon, of physical to spiritual, by suggesting that, as in ancient civilizations, what happens in conjunction with the moon--its/her phases--happens within the woman. As past of this spiritual/physical quest, in which I was aware of new energy in my life, there was a desire for a formal shape to represent the female body.

In my readings I discovered that the ancients understood the triangle as the shape that best represented the female principle. The triangle emphasizes 3, a female number; the double triangle (or hexagram) represents the self-fertilizing female principle. And the diamond-shaped two triangles) 'kilim' pattern has its origins in the earliest art of the Upper Paleolithic era, when it was reserved exclusively for the shrines of the goddess at Catal Huyuk in Anatolia. Also related to the double triangle (apex to apex) is the number 8, symbolizing, among other things, snakes and the worship of the Snake Goddess, found in Cretan and other pre-Christian civilizations. Two triangles also form X which is the symbol of female chromosomes.

As I became more involved with symbolic interpretations, I found myself in the third phase: an exploration of the calligraphic Taoist magic charms with the earlier labium shape simplified and superimposed upon them. There was a deliberate effort to visually reunite woman with nature--a primitive unconscious relationship she must have enjoyed in the past when both woman and men were a part of the cyclical rhythm of the seasons, and at one with nature.

And finally in this third phase the triangle reemerges and through the combination of the circle as symbolizing the moon and all its/her implications, I explored the revitalizing of the inherent strength within woman, and came to what the 3 months was all about -- TALISWOMAN: ENERGY.

Marlene M. Wills [Mountain]

[click here to view ps1 '39']

*Babylonian: Heart-rest, the monthly 'evil' day of the moon goddess Ishtar

Also on view are drawings, 'femmage' (a renaming of collage by Melissa Meyer and Miriam Shapiro), 'ipro' (a renaming of icon) or 'found goddesses' and a sequence of haiku

[click here to view ps 1 sculpture: ipro - 'femmage' - shebile]

SPECIAL THANKS to: Wanda Harris, MaryEllen Ponsford, Charles Thompson, Melinda Royalty, Philip Singer, Echiko Evanoff, Randy Roberson, The Road Company, the women who have contributed to 'Chrysalis' and 'Heresies' and my son, Jason.


808 Gallery, Johnson City Tennessee 1979
Knoxville Women's Center, Knoxville Tennessee 1979
Asthetic Access, Valle Crucis North Carolina 1989


ps 1 '808 Gallery'
ps 1 '39' invitation
ps 1 exhibition article
ps 1 exhibition statement
ps 1 '39' paintings
ps 1 sculpture: ipro - 'femmage' - shebile

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