a thousand faces of the feminine

One of Merilee Bennett's hand-painted, hand-stitched wisdom doll "goddesses". Photograph by Emma Byrnes 

One of Merilee Bennett's hand-painted, hand-stitched wisdom doll "goddesses". Photograph by Emma Byrnes 

Over the past couple of years I have had the pleasure of working with Merilee Bennett - artist / film-maker / writer / educator / workshop facilitator.
She is a woman of many talents and someone whose company I have come to cherish and love. She is generous, warm-hearted and has that rare ability to exist in the present moment. Much of Merilee's life and art has been an exploration of the archetypal realm and how we interact with that realm in our everyday lives. 

Over her career Merilee has moved seamlessly from painting to film to photography and has, for now, settled in the three dimensional realm of wisdom doll making. She hand-stitches, beads, adorns and paints textile figures inspired by myths and fairytales, paleolithic goddesses, dreams, the natural world and the occasional mystical revelation. Each of these figures, when cradled in one's palm, has a special energy and feeling - they seem to speak of Merilee's own personal journey and inner wisdom.

As she mentioned in a recent interview with Popcraft Studio:

"The Wisdom Dolls started with my menopause doll, to celebrate entering that particular rite of passage. From then I have been listening to their whispers, and following their inspiration...She is everywhere! In seed pods and flowers, and the wind! In the feeling of sun on my skin, or the night sky when the stars are out. In the feeling of my body moving, or the energy within me during meditation. There are ancient stories that speak to me, and ordinary fabulous women around me who embody the archetype of the feminine in so many different ways. It is the grandmothers, the old goddesses, the earth under my feet."

Merilee has an interest in the incredible power of stitching and meditation - of when these two elements are in unison. When speaking of a recent wisdom doll workshop that she hosted:

"The quality of conversation around the table, over the making, as they refined their ideas and we worked out together how they were to create what they envisaged, reminded me of the aeons of women of every culture, working together, sewing or cooking or problem solving or building relationships, building community. There was an element of that feeling as this group stitched and painted and constructed, all the while talking in that free wheeling, looping manner, where technical questions give way to moments of deep emotion and intimacy."

Merilee will present her textile sculptures at the monsalvat residents gallery from 18 january - 19 march. She will also facilitate an art making workshop where attendees will explore archetypes, life narratives and create their own talisman. Spending time with Merilee and her "goddesses" is a privilege and one that I would urge you to follow up during her time at montsalvat. If you get the chance to attend one of her workshops you will find that the time spent will be deeply enriching.

Em x