Before vampires became part of our popular culture, there was a time when witches, witchcraft and general feminine mischief held a prominent place in our hearts. Men, women and children have all been accused of sorcery, but the majority of those accused and punished for witchcraft have been women. The art world has certainly played a role over the last few centuries to further amp up our fear and infatuation with wicked women. For over 500 years, artists have explored and represented them in highly exaggerated ways from hideous hags to beautiful seductresses, endowed with magical, sometimes evil powers.
In January of this year the British Museum wrapped up a 4 month exhibit that examined the portrayal of witches and witchcraft in art from the Renaissance to the end of the 19th century. The year before the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art introduced a similar exhibit called Witches and Wicked Bodies. Both exhibits featured prints and drawings by artists including Dürer, Goya, Delacroix, Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, alongside classical Greek vessels and Renaissance maiolica.
Thanks to literature, film and television shows like BeWitched, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Hocus Pocus and Witches of Eastwick – just to name a few – we’ve feared them, envied them or have been utterly enchanted by them. I’m no exception. This time of year always brings out my inner “Wicca Goddess” and I can’t help but create a few sculptures of these women who in their ugliness are so beautiful. This year I’ve created witch busts rather than the whole figure. What I love about creating these character busts is that I am able to focus completely on the facial expressions, drawing out their personalities. What started as just a couple of witches turned into six busts. Three witch busts are available at the Orange Art Gallery, 290 City Centre Drive in Ottawa and three witches are available at the Gallery on Gore, 92 Gore St. E. in Perth.
Check out their websites at
orangeartgallery.ca or galleryongore.com
Just a little side note: Green eyes have been associated with magic and witchcraft for centuries. Green eyes are the rarest eye color for humans, although they are one of the most common colors of cats’ eyes. It was this association that got green-eyed ladies tagged with mystery and possibly supernatural powers. In the days of wigs and lice combs, witches were believed to have green eyes, and able to shape-shift into cats at will. Green eyes are also said to be related to passion and sexual prowess. Their owners are reputed to have a curious nature and an overall zest for life. On the down side, they tend to be jealous and fiercely independent to a fault. Shakespeare may have coined the term “green eyed monster” and its association with jealousy in his plays, first in The Merchant of Venice and then Othello. Other cultures, like Gypsies, believe green eyes represent a person with an “old soul”, or the reincarnated version of a shaman long gone. Harry Potter has green eyes.