Ellen Sauer

Ancient Aditi – view 2

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This is the same original painting as Ancient Aditi- view 1, but hung on a brick wall background. The photographer wanted to capture her many facets in the outdoor lighting. Once complete, we both liked the background and decided to keep it as a print option. Perhaps stepping into Aditi here would be akin to Platform 9 3/4 of Harry Potter lore. 🙂

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Ancient Aditi – view 1

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I have been drawn to the Goddess Aditi since the first time I saw an image of an ancient depiction of her – below.

Aditi original smaller

What I instantly loved about this image was the absence of the typical ‘goddess’ form. Although she has just enough attributes to allow us to recognize her humanness – legs, arms, and ears – as well as a throne to depict her sacredness, the heart of her Being has no shape.

Rather, her core is filled with a vast openness. She is unbound by the egoic structures of form, identity, and roles. And as a result, she is free of judgment, of comparison, and of expectation.

With that perspective, Aditi’s formlessness is more beautiful than any curvaceous, half-clad goddess. The portal that she is invites me to leave my ego at the front step, enter into her nurturing velvet blackness, and rest in the freeing state of simply Being Present.

The original of this piece is 24 x48″, oil on canvas, with plaster casts of my hands and feet covered with marbled paper. Silk material, beading, and found objects adorn her as well. Completed 2007. Original not for sale, but images can be purchased at Fine Art America or RedBubble.

Lady Magdalene

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The blending of the two images – Lady Liberty and Mary Magdalene – came to me when I envisioned Mary holding her alabaster jar and chalice in the same way that the Statue of Liberty holds her book and torch. Possibly an odd pairing upon first glance, but for me, the essence of the union of these two feminine figures is about being seen.

 More importantly, it’s about choosing to be seen without regard for outcome.

The actual Statue of Liberty was created with the intent of being a universal, visible image that depicted, and was embraced as, the symbol of opportunity and of new life. Placed upon a pedestal on her own island along the path of entry, she is the epitome of being seen. And she is understood, revered, and visited in droves.

Mary Magdalene was a sacred feminine being who was very real and was willing to be seen. She followed her heart and her soul and never abandoned her wild nature. And for that, she was misunderstood and rejected. She was all but erased from common history save for her depiction as a sinner who was forgiven by Jesus, that is, until recently when truths about her have been rediscovered. To place her upon Lady Liberty’s pedestal as I did in the original oil painting, hugging her alabaster jar and raising her chalice high above her head, is to offer her some of the visage and reverence she deserves…perhaps to make up for a little lost time.

The blending of these two entities, one a portal of welcome and one a sacred woman of faith, depicts the varied responses one often receives when choosing to be seen. In their cases, this difference in outcome could be explained as a simple reflection of historical timing and intent, but frankly, it doesn’t matter. Here’s the truth…

To choose to be seen is brave and necessary. It is the intent with which we were created.

Although it is awesome to be deemed acceptable from day one when seen, it is also a wonderful gift to be rediscovered, rewritten, and seen anew no matter when it occurs. But it is most critical, yet the most difficult, to embrace the fact that one may never be understood, accepted, or deemed worthy after bravely choosing to be seen. To continue living openly and honestly knowing that the outcome may always be rejection. This is the sacred essence of being alive.

The original oil painting measures 24 x 48″. Completed 2008. The original is not for sale, but images may be purchased via Fine Art America and RedBubble.

The Red Spider Goddess

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The image of the Red Spider Goddess is actually the merging of two sacred, Mayan goddesses. The first goddess is pictured below, that of the Goddess in Flight, and is found depicted on the walls of the pyramids of Teotihuacan outside Mexico City. She is shown with a feathered headdress and outstretched wings and as she soars, she anoints those she passes with the nectar from the lotus flowers that hang from her wings symbolizing the vitality of creation and the healing power of the Sacred Feminine.

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The second sacred, Mayan image that is merged in this piece is the Red Spider Goddess herself. She is not depicted in the artwork on the walls of the pyramids. Rather, one of the pyramids was built to embody her and before it was weathered by the elements, was painted bright red. The cave, or womb, beneath this pyramid is storied to house her in much the same way that a tarantula will build a cave-like dwelling and weave a web over the top so it can hide beneath.

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While the tarantula isn’t my favorite animal in real life, I love the image of it spinning a web as a veil between the seen and unseen worlds. I am also intrigued by the manner in which all spiders weave their intricate, beautiful webs as well as their ongoing repair of those webs whenever they get broken. These weaving processes speak to me of the need for us to weave and reweave, to create and heal, the web of life connecting all of us to each other and to what lies beyond us.

Combining the images of both of these Sacred Feminine images is a powerful portrait for me, as well as a portrait OF me. My face and hands are depicted in the original as the face and hands of the Goddess of Flight. This helps me to embody my place in the web – to honor the sacredness of the seen and unseen worlds, to see what needs to be repaired, and to heal it with love.

The original piece is created on a 24 x 48″ canvas with acrylic paint, copper wire, feathers, clay faceplate, ribbon, and found objects. Completed 2009. Original not for sale, but images may be purchased via Fine Art America or RedBubble.

Kali: The Persistent Visionary

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Kali is considered the fiercest of the Hindu goddesses and is often referred to as the goddess of death. She is generally depicted as a blue-skinned warrior wearing a skull necklace and a skirt of dismembered limbs. Two of her four hands hold a severed head and a sword. Her other two hands are empty, ready to bless those who turn to her. Upon first meeting Kali, her image and symbolism may be frightening. For me though, I see her as a loving visionary.

I routinely welcome her presence in my life to challenge my belief systems, question my perceptions, and shake me to my core so I don’t get too comfortable in my patterns. She does all of this in a seemingly destructive manner, but in truth, the breaking down part (the death) is only the beginning. What follows is a restructuring of values and beliefs, an opening to others’ perceptions, a strengthening of relationships with myself and others, and new routines and flows to move through. I’d be specific with all that shifts as a result of Kali’s presence, but it literally changes every single day.

As a result of this loving interpretation of Kali, I depicted her face and arms as part of the Tree of Life. The Tree appears to be dying and in flames, but in reality, beauty is right behind, flowing up through the roots.

And although her face is blue-skinned and flaming with her wild tongue sticking out, I made one of her fiery eyes winking. It’s as if she’s saying, “I know I’m supposed to be all mean and scary, but if you promise to keep it quiet, I’ll let you in on my little secret.”

The original piece measures 24 x 48″ and consists of oil paint and found objects. Completed 2007. It is not for sale, but images can be purchased at Fine Art America or RedBubble.

Babushka Madonna

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Babushka Madonna’s image developed during a time in my life when I was hunting for sacred feminine images that were more real and accessible than the typical Madonna image that is frozen in time as the demure, blue-cloaked young woman with downward-focused eyes. Only a fraction of women (maybe none) can truly live up to and relate to the image of the typical Madonna figure. I wanted more images of the Sacred Feminine that I could relate to. In particular, I was looking for sacred images that spoke to me at my stage of midlife looking forward to elderhood.

We never see Madonna images of the elder, wise, crone Madonna. Yet there is such beauty and strength in aging. There is sacredness in the wisdom that comes from living life. I wanted something that I could grow into. I wanted someone that could embrace me and guide me and be my mentor. I needed Babushka Madonna. The image of an older woman akin to an elderly Mother Theresa came to me.

As I was painting her, I took a jaunt to New York City and went to Ellis Island. I looked up my grandmother, Barbara (Bara) Súc, who emigrated from Croatia to the United States in 1919 at the age of 19. After a ‘phone a friend’ call to my maternal aunt to verify what I was uncovering, I found her.

I was stunned by the information gained via the ship’s manifests and my aunt’s knowledge. Bara Súc was a petite, but strong woman. She loved me enough to follow her pioneer spirit and her dreams and desires, and in doing so, she gave up the ‘known’.

Upon returning home, I set aside my Ellis Island discovery and continued painting Babushka Madonna. When my teenage son came into my studio and asked me why I was painting a picture of Grandma (my mother), I realized that I had indeed created an image of the Sacred Feminine that was very close to home. She embodied the spirit of my grandmother’s journey from young adult through elderhood and I could see myself in her, both in my past as a young woman eager to make my way and in my future as an elder woman filled with the wisdom of life’s lessons. I had created an elder Madonna image in her and in me that I could indeed relate to and embrace, that could guide me and be my mentor.

On the back of the original’s frame I wrote:

Grandma Bara Suc, my Babushka Madonna. So brave. Fear in every cell. Trusting. Left behind known – never seen again – because there was more, is more to be. Choosing more. Opening to me. An example to me. Risk it. Get on the boat, cross the deep water, land on the shore. Step into the unknown without pain, past fear. Life awaits. LIFE awaits. Life.

The original piece is 20 x 24″, oil on canvas. Completed 2005. It is not for sale, but images can be purchased on Fine Art America or RedBubble.

Modern Madonna

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This piece is part of a series of Madonna images I created with the perspective that the beauty of the Sacred Feminine does not need to be in one type of image, i.e. the typical demure Madonna with downward-cast eyes. I loved the idea of this Madonna looking right at the camera. I loved her tattoos and piercings and spiked hair…all of those things that I had heard people around me comment on in teens and young women as bad or disgraceful. Part of me agreed, but only the very smallest part that was a bit afraid of it all. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable to witness the boldness of others when you yourself want to blend in and not be seen. I wrote some quotes on the back of the frame that I felt were these smaller parts of all of us that aren’t willing to throw our fears to the wind and see what true sacred beauty can be.

“She used to be such a good little girl. What happened?”

“Kids these days!!”

“Where did we go wrong?”

“It could be worse. It could be your daughter.”

“She could be such a pretty girl. What a shame.”

The bigger part of me relished the idea of being as bold as this Modern Madonna in order to make a statement that spoke out to people every single time they looked at me. How brave and honest. I wanted to show that honest beauty and make it sacred. To recognize this larger part, I wrote on the back of the frame:

She knows she has the power to make the stares smile and the words shift, but that means she lives in their world and takes on the legacy of fear and shame. She risks abandonment to gain freedom; she bears isolation to discover her inner wings. Oh my child. Surrender to your depth and soften your interior, your heart. You are the pioneer of self, of soul, of love for humanity.

I honor the sacred beauty and strength in all women.

The piece measures 20 x 24″ and is oil on canvas. Completed 2006. Prints of this piece as well as tshirts, phone and ipad cases, and notecards can be purchased via Fine Art America or Redbubble. Check it out!

The New Eve of Guadalupe

The New Eve of Guadelupe

This red-headed goddess is currently The New Eve of Guadalupe, but she started life in June 2007 as Madonna Finds Her Voice. At that time, I was opening to the idea that the demure, blue-cloaked Mary needed perhaps to speak up a bit and tell us her story. So I envisioned a Madonna image looking straight at the camera with her throat bursting open with color. And then I painted her. She was indeed looking straight at the camera, but she was much more vibrant than I initially planned. All parts of her came alive with the henna tattoos and bright orange hair. And I realized that all parts of me were opening and coming alive and trying to be sorted out into this my fourth decade, so she became Midlife Madonna. (Oddly enough, at this time I hadn’t yet painted the tattoos on her throat. Everywhere else, but not her throat.)

And then came the gold and yellow background and I thought, “Aha! The Virgin de Guadalupe has entered the picture!” This really excited me because, having been raised Catholic and being a lover of Mexican art, the Virgin de Guadalupe makes my heart open with just one look. So, could this beauty have another name? Midlife Virgin became her new tag, both because its double entendre cracked me up and because I truly did feel like a newcomer to this midlife adventure.

Then a few months later the snake came into being and thus, the Eve aspect of the image. I realized then that this wasn’t one goddess, one image, or one aspect of my midlife development. Rather, it was the Sacred Feminine that has been carried through all ages and images and forms even when silenced like the Madonna, or reinvented like the Virgin de Guadalupe, or shamed like Eve. And since we, the image and me, were trying to unfold the multitude of forces at work within me and embrace the colorful, vibrant, empowered Sacred Feminine, she became The New Eve of Guadalupe.

With that wonderful awareness now part of me, I hung her on the wall and considered her complete for the time being and went onto other things. And in March of 2010 (yes, two and a half years later) I looked at her and thought, “Why in heaven’s name does she have tattoos everywhere on her EXCEPT for her throat?” So I pulled her off the wall and painted the tattoos on her throat. FINALLY the initial bursting open of Madonna Finds Her Voice manifested. Add to that the rewriting of the story of Adam and Eve, the shedding of shame and the embracing of love, and Midlife Madonna is on her way leaving Midlife Virgin behind. Eve is left to speak and act and shift history and the Virgin de Guadalupe stands firm as the loving force and sacred portal to hold the space for her. I can feel it all in the image and writing, this evolution of the Sacred Feminine and of my journey!

The original piece is 24 x 48″, oil on canvas with an apple necklace and beads attached. Completed 2007. Original is not for sale, but images may be purchased at Fine Art America or RedBubble.

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