Mary Branson, Daughters of Theia

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Posted 1st August 2019

Daughters of Theia

Mary Branson, Artist in Residence

At its heart, Daughters of Theia is an artwork that celebrates women's relationship to the moon. The work comprises 84 ceramic goddesses, individually made with the help of invited artists and friends. The work was conceived over a period of three months, where I turned the Artist in Residence studio at Watts Gallery - Artists' Village into a communal workshop to make the clay forms. The studio became a site for intimate discussion, escape, concentration and laughter - a process I often find becomes an integral part in the making of my installations.

The goddess form used as the basis for the design originates from an early Romanian fertility figurine (c.4500 BC), a symbol I have chosen to represent the ancient relationship that has endured since the earliest civilisations between women, the moon and its seasons.

All the individual elements have been Raku fired, a Japanese method which involves removing clay from the kiln while bright red with heat and placing it into containers of wood chips, straw and other fast-burning materials. The dull grey glazes are instantly transmuted into bright gold, silver and copper alloys that form a thin skin over the goddesses.

This alchemy gives a sense of the explosive nature of the birth of the moon, which, following the giant-impact hypothesis, was probably formed from the debris left by a collision between Earth and an astronomical body called Theia, approximately 4.5 billion years ago. Theia was a mythical Greek god, the mother of Selene, the goddess of the Moon.

I'm best known for my site-specific light installations and this work is no different. The piece is brought to life by sunlight, just as the moon is. The relief is situated on an east-facing wall, so these goddesses wake up with the rising sun.

Images: Mat Clark; Emma Louise Brown.

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