Friday, July 29, 2011

"Raven Made Women" by Dale de Armond

Dale de Armond was a Inuit-American artist who died in 2006 at the ripe old age of 92. She was an accomplished artist, best known for her wood engravings illustrating Inuit folklore. A large collection of her illustrations were published in Raven: A Collection of Woodcuts by Dale de Armond.

This image is one example from that body of work. In Inuit mythology, the world's creator is a trickster deity called Raven (because he often takes on the form of a black bird.) Similar to the Christian Biblical myth of Adam and Eve, woman is created after man to be his companion. As Raven goes about creating more plants and animals to make the world more interesting, beautiful, useful, and dangerous for man, man and woman begin producing children immediately, and their children mature to adulthood within a matter of three days so as to quickly populate the earth. Just as with Adam and Eve, incest must be assumed, at least at first.

Here the ominous bird, with its huge, sharp beak and claws towers over a gathering of pregnant and naked gatherers. The women seem to move about nimbly, despite their voluptuous bodies, and are quite focused on their tasks. As frightening as Raven's form is in comparison to these little women, he is hunched over in a docile pose, intensely listening to one of the women. She speaks to him standing up straight with her finger pointed in his direction. I guess she's not shy about telling a powerful deity what's on her mind. I imagine she's probably telling him to do something, given the assertiveness of her gesture and seeing as he's the creator of the world. In this image, nature dwarfs, but does not dominate mankind. And these busy women are unintimidated by their own smallness. They are focused on life, and work, and getting what they need.

I would love to see this print in person. It's a small, intimate work, only 5" x 6". How wonderful it would be to hold the image in my hands, gaze through the little window, and sink into de Armond's world of Raven and the first of womankind.

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