Cerrridwen, Taliesin…and a Blue Hen?

Blue Hen plywood

It all started with the hen, the blue hen to be exact. The City of Newark, DE is having a fundraiser – in the style of the decorated animal sculptures you have seen – I am sure – in many cities across the country. As the state bird is the Blue Hen… artists have been given a plywood silhouette, app. 30″ tall. Out birds will be auctioned off in September, and will be displayed (inside) at various businesses in town, and on Main St. The previous picture shows the earliest stages, after carving up my bird, to create a niche inside. Then she was covered in paper – from the Encyclopedia Britannica, or course. And yes, I used the article on “Poultry farming”. 

Blue Hen paper

I knew right away I wanted to create a shrine in the body of the hen. Shrines are my most personal, expressive medium. Although the chicken is not a totem animal I use symbolically in my work, I wanted to challenge myself to make a “real” piece, not just a fundraiser donation. I had committed my name, my time, and energy to this venture, and I wanted it to be true to my body of work… So the only mythic reference to a chicken in Western myth that came to my mind – was the myth of Cerridwen. She is the Keeper of the Cauldron – in which She brews inspiration. She is the Goddess of rebirth, transformation, inspiration. She is a creatrix, a mother, a wise woman… In the classic myth regarding her: She brews an elixir for her son, hiring the boy Gwion to stir the cauldron. After a year and a day – the mythic measure of time for an arduous task – the potion splashes Gwion’s thumb. He sucks it, to cool the burn and receives all the wisdom, knowledge therein. Greatly displeased – Cerridwen pursues Gwion to punish him. The chase takes on epic proportions as they shape shift through many animal forms, each pair representing an element. These animal pairings will be shown on the hen itself…

sawing animals

hound and hare

otter and salmon

songbird and raptor

The greyhound and the hare. The otter and the salmon. The hawk and the songbird. But where does the hen come in? After three transformations, as the chase continues, Gwion turns himself into a grain of wheat. Cerridwen as a hen, simply eats the grain. In nine months, She gives birth to Taliesin – who is to become the greatest bard of all time. Rebirth, inspiration, transformation… 

Hen nearly complete

The niche will hold a small clay tile of Taliesin – whose name translates as “Radiant Brow” referencing the ‘fire in the head’ of divine inspiration and enlightenment. It seemed fitting to have him incubating there. I plan to include the text of the myth with the piece. I know that many will find it more in depth than they prefer. But I feel that keeping the inspiration pure and not simplifying the concept of the work is honest, and a homage to Cerridwen herself. The overall color palette is natural and harmonious, very earthy. I hope it finds an appreciative audience when it goes out into the world in September, and does its part to raise funds for the Newark Arts Alliance.   Please feel free to comment and tell me your thoughts!

( I will add new pix as the work progresses!)

2 thoughts on “Cerrridwen, Taliesin…and a Blue Hen?

  1. jenny says:

    The animals were the best part. I love sawing metal. And the animals drove the whole narrative… I have since lightened the background, and have tile in the kiln for the inside! Home stretch – I have to deliver it tomorrow!What animal would YOU wear as a totem/talisman? 

    Like

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