This painting by Meinrad Craighead is my favorite. I love her mystical artwork that celebrates the divine feminine and animal spirits, particularly those that inhabit the New Mexico land near the Rio Grande, where she lives.
I recently saw the documentary film about her life called Praying With Images last week, a beautiful biographical portrait of a woman’s life, an artist’s life, lived on her own terms. She came from Little Rock, Arkansas, where she had her first mystical experience of the sacred feminine as a child. Her family then moved to Chicago, where she began exploring her art in earnest. After she graduated from college, she traveled through Europe, living for a while in a beautiful tower in Spain on an art scholarship. She decided to become a Benedictine nun and lived for 14 years at Stanbrook Abbey in England, where she was given her own studio. While she enjoyed the monastic life, she left it behind in the 1960s and moved to a place near Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she has lived alone, taught art, and produced most of her deepest work.
She says, “I drew from my own myth of personal origin; each picture is a realization of this story and is connected to the ancient images of the God Mother in art and mythology.”
I had the pleasure of meeting Meinrad after the film and hearing her speak a bit about her life and her art. I asked about this painting, Wisdom, drawn as I am to the owl. She said the owl represented the nocturnal, the ability to see in the darkness, and find what you are looking for there. The mandala below it shows the three phases of the moon with the image of the crossroads, which she identified by a particular term, but I don’t recall the word for it. I tried looking for it in my books of symbols, but couldn’t find it. (If anyone knows what it is called, please let me know.) Nonetheless, she identified it as the point in the woods where the road diverges. We talked about the goddess, Hecate, representing the crossroads, being the personification of the triple goddess (it has many meanings: maiden, mother, crone; land, sea, sky; past, present, future; waxing, waning, and full moon, etc). By the way, Hecate is more often associated with the crone, representing wisdom, repose, death, and endings symbolized by the waning moon. The tri-sected circle and the owl are illuminated by the full moon behind it.
I think that Meinrad’s crone wisdom shines through in this amazing work, done with pen and ink and acrylic on scratch board.
I am also including her painting, Crow Mother Between the Two Moons. It seems we share a common interest in the teachings of owl and crow.