A Self in Two Sizes

reflections on Sarah Goodreau's illustration "a mythical babe" and what it says about selves - Literate Theology / KateRaeDavis.com

Sarah Goodreau is an illustrator I really enjoy, and recently she had a piece that I couldn’t not share with you. It’s called “A Mythical Babe.”

some thoughts on Goodreau's "mythical babe" on Literate Theology / KateRaeDavis.com
“A Mythical Babe,” illustration by Sarah Goodreau, http://sarahgoodreau.com/

The color palette is a thing of dreams, somehow soft and sleepy. But the shapes are all movement — hair, wings, tail, arm — this is a babe in action.

What exactly is she? There’s something sphinx-like, something dragon-esque, definitely feminine. Her expression is hard to read, but the hand seems to be waving in a friendly way — or is it raised to keep us away?

But what I love most about this work is the freedom to imagine her as any range of sizes all at the same time. Because the scenery is filled with shapes that conjure connotations rather than strictly depicting a defined setting, she can be large or small.

In one view, I see her as larger than the Great Sphinx. She borders on being called a mythical beast, but for her obvious femininity. She towers over trees in the bottom half of the image. Bulbous clouds seem minuscule compared to her girth. I imagine her wings cause hurricanes and her tail has the power to protect against enemies and to take out small villages in one swoop. She is fierce, commanding, unstoppable.

And then I shift my gaze, and suddenly she’s itty bitty. The trees dwindle into succulents, or even smaller — mitochondria. Individual drops of water mist hover in the background. Her wings are as fragile as a dragonfly’s, her tail wraps around her to try to preserve a bit of warmth. She can hide so thoroughly her predator will believe she vanished.

I think what I love about this double-vision is that I have both those mythical babes inside my own self.

I have the fierce and expansive woman who can control a room and a situation. And I also (sometimes at the very same time) have the ability to make myself small enough to evade what pursues me. When I need to. When being seen is unsafe.

Do you identify more with the creature that towers and must be addressed, or the creature that can evade and hide?

What does the image conjure for you?

And seriously, go check out Sarah Goodreau’s site. She has lots of beautiful work that play with fantastical/mythical themes.

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Integrative Project Presentation

To Play with a Child Named Sorrow - post on Literate Theology / Kate Rae Davis

This Spring, I handed in my final master’s work, called an Integrative Project, titled “To Play with a Child Named Sorrow: Engaging Sin, Grief, and the Self-in-Relation through Myth and Fairy Tale.” I spent 15 months to write and then whittle down to 70 pages, and then whittled further until I had a 10minute presentation. The abstract is below; click through here to see the presentation.

Western theology’s understanding of sin on pride has focused on pride, which has furthered the oppression of women. In the last 50 years, feminist theology has made great strides in explaining how pride (“masculine sin” developed by male theologians) oppresses and has named “feminine sin” (which I term echoism) as diffuseness, a lack of a sense of self, a defining of one’s self by relationship. However, theology has failed to discuss the ways in which these sins interact with one another and how we interpersonally move from sin to grace. In “The Myth of Echo & Narcissus,” we see the ways in which pride harmfully emphasizes the self and how echoism harmfully emphasizes relationship. In “The Tale of the Handless Maiden,” we come to see the transforming process of grief, which frees us to love. This is not simply a balance between pride and echoism; this process is a transformation of human character that comes through an active process of receiving God in the midst of grief. The burden is not on humanity to find a way to manage or balance our sins. Rather, as the tale shows us, characterological change frees us from the constraints of sin (with emphasis on either self or relation) and frees us to love as selves-in-relation.

See the 10-minute presentation here: https://vimeo.com/138362284

"Echo and Narcissus" by John William Waterhouse
“Echo and Narcissus” by John William Waterhouse