Back in the 1970’s when the second wave of Feminists were exploring ancient matriarchies, female power rooted in nature, a number of women artists were channeling ancient Goddesses through ritual performance. This was an exploration of ancient archeological possibilities, real or imagined, that challenged the male Judeo-Christian theologies. Through the use of the media of performance these artists evoked female power yielding a more cooperative society dealing with nature, the earth, childbirth, and women’s spirituality.
Betty Saar created talismans to honor Black Goddesses, Judy Chicago crafted a creation myth with a Goddess as the supreme creatrix. Betsy Damon assumed the part of the “7000-Year-Old Woman” performing in the streets of New York, a mythic figure that came to her through meditation. Here, Marcia Grubb, a Chicago Artist, collaborates with Betsy Damon (Blind Beggar Woman) in a performance piece on the steps of St Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC. A crowd of about 300 people gather. The beggar woman invites people on the street to come forward and tell her their personal secrets. She is blind, so they feel comfortable in revealing personal stories, whispering in her ear.
Meanwhile nearby, the Virgin Mary gives out blessings and hears women’s prayers, secrets and desires. The performance ends with the Beggar Woman cutting bags of colored flour off her body keeping the secrets told to her forever, while the Virgin Mary performs a strip tease of sorts spinning like a Sufi and removing all the layers of her blue clothing to reveal a human being, no longer a deity.
The editor of the National Catholic Newsletter came out to argue that the Church did not approve. He called the police, but we were allowed to finish our performance and go on our merry way. We had no performance city permit. We reached the Cathedral by traveling on the subway from Soho to St Patrick’s. I felt a calmness and quiet respect and curiosity from the people on the subway, and real love from the folks on the street in front of the Cathedral.
I can tell you with certainty that everyone that we encountered that day has the imagery of what they witnessed permanently etched in their brains.
© Marcia Grubb