The transformative lotus is an image that I’ve used in my work many times over the years. The petals unfolding never fail to soothe me, to embrace me and to help me transcend the ordinary. You can read more about the Lotus in my book, Symbols of the Spirit: A Meditative Journey Through Art. (https://www.glenrogersart.com/copy-of-books-1)
While working on the painting, I began photographing each step to document my progress. It was meant as a tool for me to study as I went along. So it literally shows how I built the painting – the layering of colors – easing my way towards completion. I hope you enjoy the sequence.
“Retablo for the Sacred Feminine”, oil on canvas with gold leaf & wood, 25.5″ x 18″
I’m honored to be participating in The CrossingBorders exhibition in Ghent, Belgium, August 31 thru September 15, a group exhibition of artists from the Global Art Project (GAP). We were invited to create an artwork that reflects a border or boundary and what it means to cross it – (political issues, globalisation, (im)migration, climate change, gender, race, culture, religious racism, terrorism, genocide, war, misogynist behavior, feelings of fear or superiority etc.)
I chose to use a retablo format and focus on how women have been marginalized, tortured, terrorized, and abused for thousands of years in the name of religion. Through time, matriarchy was erased from memory as myths were appropriated and symbols were stolen. With this votive, a prayer is lifted for women to break through patriarchal boundaries around the world and share the bounty of the planet equally and peacefully with men.
Traditionally, retablos were a votive offering in the form of a religious painting with a solemn request or a show of gratitude for a miracle. They were specifically important in Mexican folk religion in the 19th century where workshops would paint a favored scenario on a piece of tin or wood and write a request to God at the bottom of the image.
Using this retablo format as the basis for my piece, I chose to focus on Mary as she represents the divine feminine in the Catholic Church. For many indigenous cultures who were forced into the religion of the Opressor, Mary is a symbol for their goddess from ancient times.
In “Retablo for the Sacred Feminine,” Mary is crowned in all her glory with a golden halo and a hint of angels wings behind her. She is truly Divine. Her breasts are bared, challenging the status quo and breaking through the shame that the Church imposed on her body. One hand open signifies her love and caring for all humanity and the other, a tight fist, represents her anger for the suppression of women and her readiness for their defense. Incorporating the spiral and the lozenge design at the top, symbols of renewal and fertility from the Neolithic goddess culture, signifies her role as life-giver.
The CrossingBorders exhibition will take place at the Sint-Amanduskapel – Campo-Santo – Visitatiestraat 2 – 9040 Sint-Amandsberg – Ghent – Belgium. It is organized for Global Art Project GAP by 10dence and curated by Ron Weijers and Carl Heyward.
You will want to savor your time with this gorgeous volume created with love and wisdom by very talented printmaker, painter and sculptor, Glen Rogers. The book is filled with Glen’s beautiful artwork expertly laid out and printed in rich colors, accompanied by short text and guided meditation.
Glen’s work has long been grounded in archetypal imagery—metaphysical symbols from the collective unconscious. As a young feminist artist, Marija Gimbutas’ insights in The Language of the Goddessspurred Glen to walk in the footsteps of early goddess cultures. Over the next several decades Glen made spiritual and artistic pilgrimages to sacred sites around the world. On these journeys and in her art and life in between, Glen discovered and nurtured an internal resonance with sacred archetypal symbols, which then became a focus of her work. When she began authoring this latest volume, she set out to write a book about two of her favorite symbols: the bird and the lotus. Once she began, however, she quickly realized there were eight key symbols that appear again and again throughout her body of work.
In Symbols of the Spirit Glen writes a two-page essay on each of these eight symbols that have imbued such meaning and beauty into her art and daily life: the bird, circle, lotus, moon, seed, spiral, vessel and vesica piscis. She covers the symbols’ historic use and meaning as well as how they came to speak to her personally. Glen includes a short meditation or experiential activity inviting the reader to connect with the energetic properties of each of the symbols: to “experience it with your heart and allow the images to become part of your visual and spiritual vocabulary.” Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.
The effect is one of pure joy and thoughtful contemplation. If you are looking for reading that nurtures the spirit, the heart, one’s creativity and authenticity, you will find it here. Merely touching the rich pages deepens and calms one’s breath. Keeping this book near you in your home or work space provides a quick escape from the harried world we live in.
Most Mazatlán residents have much to thank Glen for, including the First Friday Art Walks in Centro Histórico and the OMA Gallery at the airport. She owned Luna Art Gallery in Mazatlán, and currently splits her time between our city on the bay and San Miguel de Allende. Born in Mississippi, Glen holds an MFA from San Jose State University and has a long and esteemed art career. For decades she worked in public art and as a community leader. Glen has had solo exhibitions throughout the USA and Mexico plus several in Peru, and group exhibits on four continents.
Glen feels that these eight archetypal symbols offer a promise of healing and transformation, a spiritual and artistic anchor to the Sacred Feminine. She views the creation of art as meditation—a communing with a higher power. Working with ancient symbols provides a bridge to our ancestors and a heart connection to the past. Glen’s experience tells us that these symbols provide healing on a subconscious level, and that once we’ve healed ourselves we can heal the world, because archetypes allow us to go deeper inside to find new truths to the dilemmas we face individually and collectively. Do we really need reasons more powerful than these to invest our time and talent?
Glen’s record of giving back to the community and trying new things is evident in this book. Making such personal works available to everyone—artist and non-artist alike—allows us a peek into what pushes someone as amazingly talented as Glen, and in doing so inspires us to look inward as well. Meditating with Glen via these precious pages is a truly therapeutic endeavor. Contact Glen to start enjoying your copy.
“The man who speaks with primordial images speaks with a thousand tongues.” —Carl Jung
On my travels, I am always keeping an eye out for symbols – archetypal symbols inspired by nature and integrated into ancient sites and architectural details. I zero in on stone carvings found at Neolithic sites of Europe or at the Pyramidal sites such as Uxmal or Monte Alban in Mexico. Working with these universal symbols like the circle and the seed inspires my art and provides me with a spiritual and artistic anchor.
In general, visiting churches in Europe or Mexico is not my ‘thing’. I prefer the ancient sites. Ofcourse there are exceptions, I visited the Familia Sagrada in Barcelona and El Mesquita – a combination Mosque/Cathedral in Cordoba, Spain. I was drawn to the architectural details carved into stone. I photographed them and brought them back to the studio to use as inspiration for my artwork.
This detail from the facade of the Seville Cathedral, inspired a new painting. I appropriated the basic form and added my own style. Emphasizing the seed, the flower, the roots – all speak of renewal and regeneration – new life. Below is ‘Primavera’, 40″ x 34″, Oil on Canvas.
Seville Cathedral, Spain
Primevera , Oil on Canvas, 40″ x 34″
Below is an sculptural detail on display inside El Mesquita, in Cordoba, Spain. The resulting painting is “Lunar Phases”, Oil on Canvas, 40″ x 34″. As you can see, I use the photograph as a point of departure – then let the creative juices flow.
Sculptural detail inside El Mesquita, Cordob
Lunar Phases, 40″ x 34″, Oil on Canvas
By focusing on these simple forms, my goal is to transcend the ordinary and to evoke a mystical connection to something greater than myself, beyond my everyday reality.
In my Mazatlan studio, the Ouroboros rears her head and almost bites her tail.
The Ouroboros is an ancient symbol depicting the snake or serpent eating its own tail. There are many interpretations but in general it signifies Eternity or the never ending cycle – something constantly re-creating itself. Carl Jung named it the archetype of the human psyche. It is considered a symbol for introspection. In Alchemy, it is infinity or wholeness.
The Ouroboros has appeared in many cultures with the earliest siting in Egypt dating back to 1600BC. The Phonecians used it – then the Greeks who named the symbol, Ouroboros, which means devouring its tail. In Aztec mythology, Queztacoatl, was similarly depicted. More on the Ouroboros: http://www.tokenrock.com/explain-ouroboros-70.html
The Ouroboros is closely connected to the circle and the spiral, two universal symbols that also point to wholeness and regeneration. These two symbols have been mainstays in my work over the years – but I had never used the Ouroboros until recently.
What changed? After taking my group down to Oaxaca for the Oaxaca Art Vacation in July, I stayed for another week to soak in the city and the culture. I saw several works of art utilizing the Ouroboros symbol. I bought a watercolor by Hector Hernandez – a very simple cobalt blue rendition painted over some sheet music. I had recently done a series using sheet music as chine colle in my monoprints – so that caught my attention. I had admired this artist’s work over the years.
On a tour of printmaking workshops in Oaxaca, the Ouroboros pops up again in this gorgeous large-scale woodcut entwined with figures.
As an artist, I draw my inspiration from ancient art to contemporary works. Whose to say what and where will get the juices flowing….We all have our on voice, our own style and way of working with the imagery at hand.
I had the good fortune to visit the the ancient Mayan city of Uxmal last February. Excaping the craziness of Mazatlan’s Carnaval was a prime motivation, but landing in the Yucatan wasn’t a bad choice. Uxmal is located outside the city of Merida, Mexico and doesn’t get near the number of visitors that Chichen Itza receives each day, 2000 vs 20,000 I was told. (I had visited Chichen Itza many years before.) Plus, the day we visited it was overcast and rainy which also kept the numbers down and so a very pleasant experience.
Walking the site was a visual delight. My eyes filled with this ancient architecture, my feet following in the footsteps of the ancestors. I crept inside a hidden space and sat for a moment, alone, soaking up the silence, overcome by the spirit of place. I was particularly drawn to the stone carvings, the circles, spirals, etc., the same universal symbols found in ancient sites around the world. Looking through an artist’s eyes, I relish the forms and shapes, the details. This is what makes an ancient civilization come alive for me.
Some say Uxmal dates to around 6th century AD, others claim it is much older. I’m not much for retaining the history, remembering the names of kings, who ruled when, etc. so if you would like to learn more, you can visit this site: ancient-origins.net
Back in my Mazatlan studio, I play around with the shapes, creating a series of small 7″ x 5″ monotypes (one of a kind prints) – Uxmal I, II, & III. I layer texture and color to achieve the look of an aged document. As an artist, I am open to letting things happen on the plate, synchronicity in the studio, stacking the glyphs, letting them order themselves, and in this case, pairing them with a vertical column.
Mitla, an archelogical site in the Oaxaca Valley, inspired me with its running spirals, zig-zags and chevrons created with stone mosaics throughout the site. These intricate, geometrically designed patterns are what sets it apart from other pyramids in Mexico. Walking among these temples was a spiritual journey in itself, visioning what rites and rituals occurred within these ancient walls. One named, House of the Vital Force, really piqued my imagination. Mitla was a major Zapotec religious center that reached its zenith between 750 and 1521 and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Here are a few artworks created in the studio after visiting this site. I’m always trying to capture the mystery, the essence of a sacred space, rather than illustrate the site.
Notes from Mitla III, Oil on wood panel, 29″ x 18″
The Spiral been carved on cave walls, rocks faces and used as decoration on pottery for milennia. It is a universal symbol found around the world from the Americas, to Old Europe, Australia to Africa dating back to atleast 6000 BC. No doubt this ancient symbol was observed in nature by early humans in plant life, water flow, the wind, the heavens, and more. It signifies the universal life force and implies the underlying energy in all of life. According to Marija Gimbutas, the spiral speaks of renewal as it mimics the snake in its coiled form, eventually shedding its skin and regenerating.
The spiral is an image that continues to find its way into my work and continues to inspire me. It is an uplifting image that implies flow and change – a reminder that nothing stays the same, but continues to rejuvenate. A good message for the New Year!
Glen Rogers, Double Spiral, 52″ x 52″, Oil on Canvas, Private Collection
Reference: The Language of the Goddess, Marija Gimbutas, Harper & Row, 1989
I paid a visit to Las Labradas yesterday – a sacred site north of Mazatlán, Mexico. I’ve been there countless times since my first visit in 1999, each one as breathtakingly beautiful as the last. The expansive, pristine beach and ocean view alone are beautiful, but it’s the rich array of petroglyphs carved into the volcanic stone that really speak to me. Moving from boulder to boulder, light and shadow play on the surfaces, revealing spirals, figures and other mysterious glyphs. These visions and myths, voices of an ancient people, were created in ritual by The Toltecs thousands of years ago. I can’t help but be inspired by its symbols, the merging of stone and water, and the spirit of place.
In the last 15 years, Las Labradas has become a protected site and a tourist destination – a blessing and a curse. One now sees huge tour buses in the parking lot. On my first visit there was no parking lot much less a barely navigable road. On previous trips, we would have the place to ourselves, rarely seeing another human being. This time, a “guide” silently shadowed me my entire walk, yet (blessedly) allowed me space to do my own thing. The rocks still hold their magic and will continue to call me back.
Clearly a pubic triangle. First time I’ve seen this one.
Some of my monotype prints inspired by Las Labradas:
There is a chapter in my book, Art & Sacred Sites: Connecting with Spirit of Place, on Las Labradas. Contact me for orders: email@example.com
In the early 90’s, Marija Gimbutas’ book, The Language of the Goddess, (Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1989) had a huge impact on my work. In this book, Gimbutas, a revisionist anthropologist, provided a fresh look at the Neolithic Goddess Culture, cataloguing the artifacts and symbols found on cave walls, rocks, sculpture and pottery from Old Europe. These matrilineal societies, peaceful and agrarian, existed long before our current patriarchal system. (The Chalice & The Blade, Riane Eisler)
At the time I discovered Gimbutas’ book, my artwork focused on the female figure in a feminist vein. But while an artist in residence at KALA Institute, I began creating large-scale monotype prints that reflected many of the symbols I’d found in her book. The spiral, the pubic triangle, the chevron and concentric circles began appearing in these 42” x 55” monotypes. It was at that point, my art shifted direction to focus on archetypal symbols with a decidedly feminine nature, inspired by the ancient goddess cultures around the world. My work today still carries the influence from this pivotal point in my career. Here are some of these early prints, some of which are still available. Contact me if you are interested is seeing more.