Star on Star with the Moon
Jill Elizabeth Gower
The Sun/Star as a symbol means many things, but is generally understood across both the traditional and esoteric spiritual practices to be a symbol of growth and positivity. For example in Tarot when the Star card appears you are likely to feel inspired. It brings renewed hope and faith and a sense that you are truly blessed by the universe at this time. Likewise, when the Sun card appears you can expect great success, abundance, and happiness. When these major Arcana cards arise, you are being shown a great benefit in your life. The Moon card however is quite different, it represents hidden energies, illusions, and deceptions.
The body of work in Star on Star with the Moon began during the pandemic and relies heavily upon the everyday processes of production that were set up in my art practice so that I could create work while also balancing (or struggling to balance) my domestic responsibilities of raising three children while my marriage was crumbling amidst a global pandemic and political/social collapse.
Star on Star with the Moon also includes five Sun/Star Sculptures, and each one tells a story of struggle and failure. In Buddhism, we are told to “resolve to be the sun, no matter what problems you may be facing, the dawn will always break, fine weather will always return, and spring will never fail to arrive.” I tried to be this illuminating figure for my family during the pandemic and coinciding family turmoil, but often failed or felt invisible in my struggle to keep up with the domestic output. To cope, I began making the sun/star sculptures. I set up a daily process for creating that I could easily step into and out of using the newspapers from that time as material for the sculptures. You can see that the forms along with the surface of the Suns are made from the news of 2020 and early 2021.
Like many people, the past two years forced me to give up any and all expectations, plans went out the window, time shrank and expanded. During this sleepless hibernation, I surrendered to not knowing how things would end up. In that space of ambiguity, uncertainty, and fear I found it impossible to paint referentially as I previously had done. What image could represent or belong to this space? Instead, I set up a new process, a set of rules and constraints to make paintings. This enabled me to step into the work easily without knowing what the outcome would be. The paintings in Star on Star with the Moon grew out of this state of mind and have emerged as an entirely new body of work. These large-scale abstract watercolor paintings are unpredictable by the nature of the way the materials interact with each other. In this space of surrendering control, I see the hidden energies, and the unpredictable secrets of the universe emerge through the portals of paint.
This body of work represents a time and transition in my artistic practice that brings together both my spiritual ideologies, the constraints of domestic life, and the seemingly endless pursuit to create work despite the constraints that life throws at your feet. There is happiness and joy in this work but also the humanistic struggle of trying to occupy the space of happiness while being completely overwhelmed by external factors.